To enhance student learning both at lower and higher level, education experts believe that group learning is among the most effective strategies that ought to be employed. They say group work not only aids in participation of the entire lot, but also increases student understanding of content and comes along with many other social benefits.
Alpha Arsene Marara, an ICT specialist at University Teaching Hospital Kigali (CHUK), says it was group work that motivated him to work hard in school.
“I was shy and couldn’t share my opinion with anyone apart from the teacher. When I joined university, everything changed as most of the time we were working in groups,” he says
Marara says he learnt how to speak in front of others and articulate his ideas before the group with confidence – a skill he uses at his workplace to date.
Why group learning?
Marara says group work is vital because it increases individual achievement compared to students who are working alone.
It improves student’s relationships and accountability for weak areas. It allows students to share ideas and knowledge.
This, he says, promotes a setting where collaboration is valued and produces better results.Also, students gain valuable lifelong skills from their peers in groups.
According to John Nzayisenge, the director, Good Harvest School in Kigali, working in groups promotes students working together to maximise their own and each other’s learning.
“Two heads are better than one; when students are grouped, it gives them room to be open to one another because they feel more comfortable while discussing without the presence of their teacher,” he says.
Nzayisenge notes that groups promote inclusive learning, especially because those who are gifted can share their ideas with slow learners, which improves learning in general.
When working on class projects, he notes that group work becomes vital as it promotes collaboration.
On the other hand, Shema Mugisha, a teacher and a mentor based in Kigali, explains that group learning promotes cooperation and teamwork, which are all essential when it comes to student success.
“It provides an opportunity to hear, learn and listen to their peers, something which can’t be achieved during normal class learning. It also promotes teamwork and communication skills as well,” he says.
Apart from just being used in educational institutions, Mugisha says this approach can as well be applied at workplaces.
“When students come out of the school environment, most employers will look out for that graduate or applicant who can work in teams,” he says.
How to do it
Doreen Mwambiri, a lecturer in Kigali, says there are those students who are more talented than others when it comes to learning.
“Such gifted students can help to guide and facilitate their colleagues in the teaching-learning process, especially in groups. Teachers need to have a good intuition as well as flexibility when coming up with the groups,” she says.
Mwambiri adds that teachers should be in a position to package special activities to the groups according to what they want to achieve as this helps students work and grow together toward achieving certain goals.
“As a teacher, being able to watch over the group from time to time is essential. They should not leave the group alone for a long time because this may contribute to students switching to distractive activities; supervision is important,” she notes.
Nzayisenge explains that it is important for teachers to oversee how groups are formed because they are in position to know who should be with whom and why.
“For instance, he says this allows the teacher to mix students who are gifted with the slow learners. It prevents the tendency of students grouping themselves with friends or people they think are better,” he says.
When this is done, it improves learning outcomes and there will be a more meaningful experience, according to Nzayisenge.
Marara notes that providing guidelines on how to go about certain activities is important because some tasks can be complex.
Further, he feels that providing groups with numbers or names is important, especially when it comes to revision and gathering information from each group.