Group Work

In our teaching of summer school we used an approach to group work that we found to combat inequities and promote high achievement. We have since analyzed this approach and believe it to be the best way to promote strong and equitable participation of students in groups. I now prefer this approach to complex instruction (CI) (although that is another good option) because the center piece of the method is about involving all students in mathematical thinking. CI works to involve all students by giving them roles such as a recorder /reporter and resource manager. We found that all students could be involved if the groups always started with finding out how different students saw and thought about ideas. We had taught the students, through our teaching, that one of the most important parts of mathematics is the multiple different ways people see and solve it. We valued all the different ideas students shared in whole class and very soon the students started to value each others’ ideas, as we did. They told interviewers that they did not like group work in school – because some students did all the work, and the rest talked about clothes! But in our summer camp they liked group work because they all stayed on task and discussed ideas together. When teachers help students know that all ideas are valuable, that everyone can see and think about mathematics differently and that group work should involve finding out the ways everyone sees and thinks about the mathematics, group work becomes more effective and equitable.

There is a forthcoming paper on the group work in summer school. This page shares a video from summer school that gives insights into the ways students were working. This page also shares the task that the students were working on in the video – Pascal’s Triangle. This page also shares a number of resources detailing Complex Instruction – a video of me explaining it from many years ago, as well as research articles and shorter articles.

Jo explaining Complex Instruction when she was a Professor in England!

This is a research article on a four-year study following 700 students through high schools with different teaching approaches.

How a detracked mathematics approach promoted respect, responsibility, and high achievement.

This article looks at an innovative mixed ability approach in which students learned to be respectful of each other.

This short article, also for practitioners, explains complex instruction and gives details on the way mathematics tasks were introduced.