Almost every classroom I go into has children talking, working and learning together for considerable periods. Sometimes this group work is carefully managed and structured by the teacher, but too often it is little more than children sitting around the same table working together or near each other. Frequently stimulated by the poorly specified invitation to ‘work together’, at its worst it is one child doing it and three children watching – organised intellectual truancy. Children learning ‘as a team’ it most certainly is not! Moreover it is possible to observe poor quality ‘group work’ like this across the age range, suggesting that many pupils do not get any better at this aspect of learning over time.
On the other hand, every teacher I meet knows Think, Pair, Share, and knows how it works: The teacher poses a problem/question, and students are given time to Think about it individually, then time to discuss in Pairs, and finally time to Share their ideas in a group and come to a group solution/view.
But – If every teacher knows Think/Pair/Share, why do I see it so infrequently in classrooms? In response, some teachers say that it has fallen off their radar, while others talk about lack of time for discussion activities like TPS.
But Think, Pair, Share is not an alternative to group work. Rather it is a means of ensuring that nobody starts the Share bit before they have given the issue some personal thought (Think) and had the chance to check out their views in private with a partner (Pair). In that way, everyone arrives at the Share learning situation with something to contribute.
I wonder if using Think, Pair, Share as a prelude to group work would improve the quality of the group work itself and go some way to avoid some of the ‘social loafing’ that currently passes for collaborative learning?