I’m really making an effort this year to have a much greater percentage of class time spent with students learning together in small groups as they solve physics problems rather than me solving problems on the board. I’ll still model how to solve certain types of problem to demonstrate problem solving best practices, but I’ve observed much more effective learning when students are working through problems with a small group of peers rather than copying what I’m writing. However, what I don’t want to happen is for one student in a group to understand how to solve the problem and simply tell everyone else in the group the solution such that they just copy what she writes.
I realized that this was an opportunity for some coaching. I requested that, while groups work on solutions to the problems, they refrain from simply telling each other the answers. Since we were working on drawing graphs of motion (position vs. time and velocity vs. time) from descriptions, I asked that the students confident of their answers instead describe the motion graphed by the other students. When the students hears the description of the motion that doesn’t match their intended descriptions, how to correct the graph may be clear. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to have students facilitate their group’s discussion in this manner since students are slowly becoming familiar with the socratic questioning during whiteboarding and are already used to the fact that I respond to almost every question with one or more questions of my own.
As I walked around the room, I witnessed a dozen teachers effectively giving individual attention and support to a dozen students.
No one asked me question.
This is great. I’m trying to have a similar focus on group work, but not doing as much coaching of how to teach. But I will use your idea to give some more direct guidence. Sam Shah also wrote something pretty fascinating on honor and good homework collaboration that you may want to check out.
Thanks for the link to Sam Shah’s article. I now have two new tasks on my to-do list!