Making Sense of Groupwork Monitoring
Do you use groupwork in your classroom? Do you ever wonder if it looks anything like groupwork in other teachers’ classrooms? In our research we get to see a lot of different teachers do groupwork, and we’ve noticed that teachers circulate and interact with groups in a rich variety of ways. From what we’ve seen we don’t believe there are “best monitoring practices” that always work for all teachers, but we’re curious how understanding the variety can help teachers better understand their own context and goals around groupwork.
For example, do you approach a group only when they ask for help? Or do you systematically check on each group? The two graphs below describe two classrooms during groupwork activity. The horizontal axis represents time and the vertical axis represents the group the teachers visit (group number -1 indicates the teacher was monitoring the whole classroom instead of visiting a certain group). Each colored rectangle represents an interaction of the teacher with a group. Green rectangles signal teacher-initiated interactions, while blue rectangles signal student-initiated ones.
- What do you notice about the graphs?
- What do you wonder?
- What situations might the left graph be more appropriate for, and what situations might call for something more like the right graph?
- What would a graph from your last groupwork lesson look like?
In our research, we consider five key decision points (intentional or not):
Initiation – Entry – Focus – Exit – Participation
In other words:
- How do teachers approach groups and initiate conversations?
- What do they first say to the group as they enter the conversation?
- What is the focus of the teacher’s interaction with the group? Participation norms? Math? Which type of math?
- How do they exit the conversation? Are the conversations open-ended or close-ended?
- Do all students in the group participate in the conversation, or just some of them?
If you’re interested in more, read a summary on our project website
or see more classroom graphs here
As this is a work in progress we would love to know what you think. Critique is also welcome, so feel free to let us know what you think is missing. Tweet us with your ideas!
Written by Nadav Ehrenfeld (@EhrenfeldNadav), Grace Chen (@graceachen) and Ilana Horn (@ilana_horn).