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Sarah Jennings

Teaching Ideas

Disadvantages of teaching groups

Disadvantages of teaching groups

Anyone who has done group work knows that it can have its fair share of disadvantages. Let's take a look at why.

Table of Contents

Time consuming

Working in a team as a student can consume a significant amount of time. Scheduling meetings outside of class hours and coordinating with everyone's availability adds an extra layer of complexity. This can be especially challenging for sixth-form students who are already overscheduled. Researchers have debated whether the time-intensive nature of group work undermines its effectiveness. Consequently, there is a growing body of research exploring situations where group work may not be appropriate in the classroom. Some studies suggest that for simpler tasks, students may achieve better results when working individually.

Presence of conflict

Teaching groups might not be effective due to conflict, which can reduce students' enjoyment of the class, hinder individual learning, and increase stress levels. Many students find compromising and reaching agreements challenging and draining, leading to a fear of conflict. When working with others, it's natural that disagreement will arise due to differences in opinions. Some students find it difficult to accept criticism from their peers and struggle to get on board with ideas that aren't their own. Students who are quiet often have difficulty expressing their ideas in a group and may feel uncomfortable working with people they don't normally speak to. As a result, they may be seen as lazy, creating conflict.

Individual needs are dominated by the needs of the group

Not all students learn at the same speed. Some may need more time to fully understand the task and process the information they're being taught. On the flip side, some students may grasp the material very quickly.Therefore, when working as a group, certain students are either forced to hurry up their learning to the extent that they either learn nothing or resort to copying. Alternatively, those who work faster may actually be going too fast, attempting to move onto the next task before everyone is ready. This can lead to conflict as students may get frustrated by the learning process.

Avoiding the task

When working in a group, it's quite common for students to go off-topic, especially if the task involves discussion. Some students may use that time to gossip, do other tasks, or loaf around. This results in the group work session being less effective and productive. Ensuring that all students stay focused on their assigned tasks throughout the entire session, rather than just when the teacher approaches their table to check on their progress, can be challenging. Some teachers may feel the need to micromanage the task to ensure its effectiveness, which undermines the purpose of group work.

Unequal participation

In group work, you'll often observe a large discrepancy in participation between the different group members. With a lot of group projects, it's common to find 1-2 students taking the bulk of the workload, whilst other members essentially freeload. This can lead to conflict and breed bitterness amongst the different group members – especially if the student feels others are being rewarded for their hard work. Research shows that this is more evident in larger groups as individuals tend to diffuse the responsibility of tasks onto others as grades typically don't consider individual contribution. Other times, a student may just give their peers the answer without explaining how they worked it out. Consequently, no real knowledge and understanding have been gained.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, while group work can offer many benefits, it also comes with its fair share of challenges that can hinder its effectiveness. The time-consuming nature of coordinating schedules and resolving conflicts can detract from the learning experience, particularly for students who are already overscheduled or struggle with compromising. Moreover, the dominance of group needs over individual needs can lead to unequal participation and frustration among group members. Additionally, the tendency for some students to avoid the task or go off-topic can diminish the productivity of group work sessions. To address these challenges, educators must find ways to balance group dynamics, encourage equal participation, and maintain focus on the task at hand to ensure that group work remains a valuable learning experience for all students involved.

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