Expert Groups

I don’t want to make this an e-learning blog, so I thought that I’d write about a technique that I first met during the KS3 initiative (20th century), and how I find it helps students reach the four C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) that are described as aims for 21st century education.

Here’s an example – I wanted to help students deepen their understanding of thermal energy (specifically latent heat from the AQA IGCSE spec), and improve their exam technique as well as engaging them and hitting those four Cs. I made paper copies of four different long exam questions, and divided the class into four groups, sitting round tables (A,B,C,D). This was a class of 20, with a larger class I’d use more groups, I decided composition of groups before the class started. Each group had one of the questions, each member of the group had to have a hard copy of a model answer, with reasons for why it was a good answer and explanations of terms in the question by the end of 15 minutes. Students were engaged, I could go to each group and prompt, offer resources and pose questions to ensure all were involved- 4Cs! Students in the groups were numbered (1,2,3,4,5), so they regrouped by number, and each student explained their answer to the rest of the new group, who annotated their own copies of the question (lots of communication, I particularly like to encourage students to voice Physics concepts, increasing familiarity with technical vocabulary). Students were more confident explaining to only three peers rather than the whole class, and with only three listeners there was more interaction between learner and expert than with a whole class activity. 

I have used this technique with students from age 13 to 18, for exam questions and describing experiments that different groups have done (although that time they used Explain Everything video accounts of their work to which I had given some feedback). Students are sometimes reluctant to start with, most are positive afterwards that learning has taken place. So we get a fifth C, content, to add to the mix.


About lifelonglearner

Teacher in Southern England enthusiastic about exploring ways to learn and teach, and evangelistic about sharing them. Specialism is Physics, but that's just a useful starting point.
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