Equitable Group Work

Designing group work that provides all students the opportunity to access the mathematics can be challenging, but is critical to the growth of each and every student. Research shows that students who do the most talking also do the most learning. The resources and videos below outline group work strategies that increase equitable interactions in heterogeneous classrooms (Cohen & Lotan, 2014; Horn, 2012). 

Building Students' Group Work Skills

Teaching Group Work

There are significant benefits to establishing a positive group work culture in the classroom. When groups work well together, group members push each other's thinking, hold each other accountable for learning, and build on each other's ideas. However, it takes time and consistent classroom structures and messaging for student to learn and develop robust group work skills. 

Strategies such as codeveloping group work norms with students, infusing group roles into your classroom routines, using participation quizzes to reinforce good group work, and accountability quizzes to hold groups accountable for each other's learning will all support students in using each other as resources and build a learning community. 

Codeveloping group norms with students supports collective ownership of using positive group work behavior. In the lesson outlined in this change idea, students analyze examples of groups working together and decide on norms they want to use for their own group work. Two norms that repeatedly come up are: everyone has the right to ask questions and everyone must be able to explain the groups thinking (leave no-one behind!).

Group Work
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Students in Katerina's 8th grade classroom discuss their experience with group work. 

Group Roles as Status Equalizers

Group roles provide a useful structure for ensuring equitable participation in group work. They provide each student with responsibilities and 'sound bites' to support them in engaging productively in learning from one another. Students often feel awkward using them at first, however, once they are integrated students report that they significantly deepen the level of mathematical discussion during group work.

The roles have been designed so that they are intellectually equal and keep everyone 'in the game'. The roles include:

  • Team Captain

  • Coach

  • Accountability Manager

  • Skeptic