Groupwork needs a bigger role in classroom practice, according to the findings of the SPRinG (Social Pedagogic Research into Groupwork) project, carried out over five years by researchers at the universities of London, Cambridge and Brighton.

Working with over 4,000 pupils aged 5 to 14, the project showed that training pupils in groupwork skills can:

  • raise educational achievement
  • increase active engagement in learning
  • foster deeper conceptual understanding
  • boost high-level discussion between children
  • improve classroom behaviour.

Tackling passivity Groupwork, the research says, counters the tendency to passivity – the downside of trying to raise attainment by making students work to a prescribed curriculum – under continuous assessment pressure. At the same time, it is an ideal approach for developing the emotional literacy skills that enable learners to work effectively as a team and make decisions together.

Current practice At present, pupils too often sit in groups without actually working as a group. This is because teachers:

  • lack effective strategies for setting up groups
  • are sceptical about the value of groupwork
  • are concerned about its impact on behaviour
  • rarely train students to work well in groups.

‘Grouping arrangements that currently characterise many classrooms are just as likely to inhibit learning as they are to promote it,’ the researchers find.

Conclusion Despite many people thinking otherwise, the researchers conclude that groupwork can be successfully used and implemented as an everyday practice in primary and secondary school classrooms.

‘We need to rethink,’ they say, educational theories ‘which seem to favour teacher-led situations and individual work.’