Skillsets for Working in Small Groups

One of the skill set I am realizing that many of the future physics teacher here lack is how to productively work with others on challenging physics tasks. I have been trying to be more explicit about how I model effective group work with them, but part of that means that I need to be more articulate to myself about productive group work.

So what skills do I think are important? Geez. There are so many, and they are hard to articulate. But here are a few that I think are really important.

  • Being willing to offer tentative ideas, even when you are unsure. Being willing to offer ideas as tentative, even when you are sure.
  • Finding a balance between “taking some initiative” to get going and “going with the flow” of where others are going.
  • Inviting others to say something, especially when they haven’t in a while. This seems to imply that you have a skill set for monitoring who is and isn’t contributing.
  • Asking others to clarify what they have said, or say more about what they just said, or ask them to explain why they think something. This comes along with some skill set in which your tone of voice is inviting not judgmental.
  • Re-voicing others’ ideas (“Let me see if I get your argument, you are saying…”). This comes along with a skill set of *listening for understanding*, not waiting for your turn to talk.
  • Noticing and pointing out when two there  are different answers or ideas that have been presented. This means you are not only listening for understanding, but monitoring across understandings for differences and similarities.
  • Holding oneself, the group, and progress accountable to “reasoning” and “arguments”, and holding “reasoning” and “arguments” accountable to *consensus ideas*, whether they be canonical physics ideas.

I’m curious. What do others think are important “working on school physics tasks” skill sets?

2 thoughts on “Skillsets for Working in Small Groups

Add yours

  1. Thanks for posting this (even if I am a bit slow in reading it)! I like these ideas and this kind of connects to something which I need to figure out how to tackle with my class – taking the “reporting out to the class” step seriously.

  2. A lot of the things you suggest doing here would require full attention for an introvert, leaving no space for thinking about physics. A lot of group work seems designed solely for extraverts, who can handle the group social dynamics without giving it their full attention. It may be worth thinking about how to make groups work for introverts, so that they can contribute. Perhaps requiring the group to shut up every few minutes and work independently would help, giving the introverts a chance to breathe and think.

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