Math 146, Winter 2015
Some Suggestions for Learning in a Group
As you work in your group, try to monitor how you spend your time.
You may need to negotiate when deciding which problems to look at and
the degree of resolution you need before turning to another problem.
Sometimes it is best to decide to leave a problem that is only partially
resolved and return to it later. However, there will be times when you
are very involved in a problem and connected as a group and choose to
stay with it for most of the class time. Try to monitor those decisions
as a group, taking into account the needs and preferences of the group
as a whole.
As you monitor and negotiate the group process, do not lose sight of
your own learning. Are you too passive in the group? Do you spend most
of your time listening to others discuss their solutions? Do you have
questions and ask them? Are you developing as a problem solver through
the group process? Developing as a problem solver entails sharing your
questions and strategies, as well as listening attentively to others'
questions and strategies.
Do you dominate in the group discussions? Why? Do you spend a lot
of time "showing" your solutions rather than discussing them together
with others' solutions? Do you leave room in the discussions for others
to enter? Do you listen?
Below is a list of what seem to be the primary responsibilities of a
group member. These arose from experiences as a participant in a group
as well as a teacher in a group setting. Can you think of anything that
has been left out?
- Arrive prepared and ready to start. Bring a clear depiction of your
specific questions about the material.
- Take responsibility for your own learning. Share
strategies/questions with the goal of having others understand what you
are getting at and where/why you are stumped. This is different from
saying "I couldn't get..." and the expectation that you will leave with
someone else's resolution to the problem. This is difficult since most
of us are accustomed to having someone else (a teacher, for example)
take over and resolve the problem for us when we are stumped.
- Avoid accepting responsibility for someone else's learning (since
then they will not learn). Listen to others with the goal of
understanding their strategies and questions. This is different from
the goal of simply showing them how to do it "your way". It is also
- Even when you have no questions, spend some group time sharing
resolutions. It feels great to show something amazing you've come up with
or to share in someone else's resolution. Take time to enjoy these
moments. You will be wonderfully surprised by the diversity of
strategies and by how much you can learn by looking at just one problem
from different perspectives. Keep in mind that learning several
approaches to a problem may, in the long run, be even more valuable to
you than finishing an entire worksheet.
- Acknowledge the contributions to your resolutions and understanding.
Let your group members know when they do something that helps you.
Adapted from the work of Dr. James Epperson, The Universiy of Texas at
Austin, who got it from Dr. Kelly Gaddis, Buffalo State College
Back to main page