Small Groups are Perfect for Intervention
- August 31, 2018
- Posted by: tgpanthadmin
- Category: Resources
Material learned in a large group setting is often not retained or understood as well as if it is learned in small groups. When you’re teaching students behind grade level, this fact becomes even more important to helping them master the material they are learning. Small groups can be a very effective tool in supporting students in an intervention setting.
One benefit of small groups is that it “gives students a chance to practice higher-order thinking skills that instructors love to teach,” according to Nicole Tuttle, a Teaching Consultant at the Chicago Center for Teaching at The University of Chicago. When students are faced with having to do more than just recall information but actually having to apply what they learn to new situations and to evaluate it critically, for instance, small groups provide the perfect situation in which they can practice those skills.
Another reason to include small groups as part of an intervention strategy is that it provides an environment in which students can feel more confident in sharing their ideas about what they’re learning and in taking risks to share their answers to questions. They can feel more supported and positive about learning in a learning environment that does not involve other students shouting out the answers or the shame and disappointment they may feel in a larger class when they get an answer incorrect.
Additionally, small group teaching allows teachers the opportunity to fill gaps in students’ learning and gives students the chance to “receive feedback on their learning” and to work “towards self-directed and independent learning,” according to the University of New South Wales in Australia. Students can be exposed to a variety of perspectives from other students, and they can better understand their own attitudes toward and understanding of what they’re learning about and then test them against the ideas of others.
Challenges that you may face as an instructor using small groups include the challenge of having the small group remain student- and not teacher-centered and the lack of chances to create different groups for peer learning. The latter can result in repetition of the same activities and decrease learner engagement.
Still, small class sizes of between four and six students are ideal to help students address their learning gaps and difficulties. Reading Rockets, a resource for educators teaching reading, notes that, for students making minimal progress in reading, “[o]ne]on]one or small-group instruction provides the greatest opportunity for continuous and active learning. For example, in whole-class instruction, individual students have few opportunities to respond, practice, and interact with the teacher,” but in a small group setting, students will have many opportunities to practice. Additionally, teachers will have the chance to provide students with feedback more quickly and to customize that feedback to their individual learning needs.
Small groups don’t need to replace large-group instruction, but they can be a useful supplemental tool for instructors to provide the support that each of their students require to succeed.