Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Topic: Roles People Play in Small-group Discussions

Question: How can teachers prepare students for successful and productive small-group discussion?

Answer: An excerpt from my book Teaching English, How To…., Xlibris, 2004.

“In my experience, small-group discussions, at every level, upper elementary school through college, has been a complete waste of time. Usually “getting into small groups” meant “BS-ing” about irrelevant topics, and group projects usually became the responsibility of one or two people to complete the project. However, in the real world, group projects are the way in which the world’s business is completed. Group projects involve a variety of talents in producing results that could probably not be attained by any one individual. Teaching students how to work in groups needs to be taken seriously.

“English teachers have the responsibility to train students in the skills and attitudes needed to participate successfully in small group discussions and projects. They need to teach students how to moderate a discussion and how to act as leaders in projects, how to take notes for later reporting to the larger group and how to analyze the roles of various participants in order to learn what helps a group to achieve its goals and what prevents a group from achieving its goals. As usual, the teachers’ performing these tasks as they work with the students provide models to follow.

David M. Litsey (1969) suggests 18 roles that people can play in a group enterprise. He divides these roles into three categories: “Maintenance,” “Task Roles,” and “Self-Serving Roles.”

Details on these roles will be given in my next blog.

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