Here are the Pre-Calculus and Calculus responses to the following prompt: We switched from a default group size of 3 to a group size of 2. Which did you prefer? Did we switch groups too often? Not enough? Goldilocks amount?

  • I preferred the group 3 of three, I thought that the group switch period was good.
  • I prefer working in groups of 2 because it’s easy to get lost in a group of 3 when 2/3 students understand what’s going on
  • It does not make a difference to me. I did not like switching groups so often.
  • I preferred the group size of 3. I find that we switched groups at an acceptable rate.
  • Frequently switching groups seemed beneficial, and having both groups of two and three served well.
  • two is good if they talk to each other
  • I don’t think we switched groups often enough. Sometimes groups of 3 were helpful if at least one person understood and one could observe while the third struggled through. Groups of 2 were good for working through hard problems.
  • 2 people was better. 1-1 conversations are more engaging and it’s easier to teach to/learn from 1 person at a time instead of 2.
  • I preferred 3, but the difference is not that much. Having 3 people per group just adds another brain to help with problems.
  • Groups of 2 were better, as was switching every quarter or so
  • Both work really well. 2 seems easier to manage, but to be honest the sizes of the groups don’t matter a whole lot. We just end up collaborating between groups anyway.
  • I like groups of 3 better but for certain things just working with one other person could be better. I think we changed groups a good amount of times.
  • group of three was the best because you get two more people to help you
  • I liked 2 person groups better, and liked switching every two weeks rather then every one
  • 2 works better because its not just two people doing the work and the others just sitting there not really understanding.
  • I think every 2 weeks works well. It didn’t feel very different when we switched from three to two people in a group, so in my opinion they are both good.
  • I liked switching groups every two weeks because it allowed me to work with different people. I prefer working in groups of 3 rather than 2.
  • I liked switching every 2 weeks–seemed like the perfect amount. However, I like the groups of 3 better because it allowed for more discussion and more out loud thinking.
  • I like groups of 2 because you can really see how things are working and you get more of a personal level connection with that person which makes it easier to ask questions and figure problems out. I don’t think we switch too often, I like switching every 2 weeks, Goldilocks amount.
  • I like both 3 and 2 people. Having an extra person or two is good to have when you are struggling. I liked switching groups often so then you are with someone new every two weeks.
  • Groups of 2 when there’s a group of 3 there’s always someone left out and its hard to communicate and work together with such little room.
  • I prefer only having 2 people for the group sizes. I felt whenever we had 3 people, one person would always be a little left out and not learning as much as they could be since the other two people were just working with each other.
  • every 2 weeks was perfect, either sized group was fine
  • I think 2 works better, simply due to whiteboard space. The whiteboards were kind of awkward with groups of 3 because you either needed to huddle around 1 whiteboard or have 1 person on their own and 2 others collaborating which kind of broke up the group. I think the amount we switch is fine.
  • I think switching seats every 2 weeks worked a lot better than switching seats every week. It allowed us to get more comfortable with our partner and work better with them. I think working in pairs worked much more effective, but that was because I was paired with someone I worked well with every time. I really think that next year you should set up a system to pair kids with people they work well with, because you simply don’t work well with everyone. There are entire units that I have difficulty understanding because I was paired with someone who was discriminatorial towards me or who refused to work with me. I know we need to have the skill to work with people we aren’t close with, and I’m not arguing with that, but I think there also need to be some measures in place to avoid uncomfortable situations.
  • i prefer 3… two is too small because a lot of the times neither of us know the answer and dont have a ton of input
  • Somewhat more rotations would be good, 2 is fine, then you have an easier sitting whiteboard.
  • 2 is good; group change is nice; yeah
  • 2 is the best, 3 can be too distracting. With 2 people it is one on one so you can solve things faster and help people easier.
  • i think having three people in a group is helpful to get more then one input on how to approach or actually do a problem whereas with 2 there is more likely a chance you both don’t know how to approach a problem and your stuck.
  • I preferred the groups of 3 but should switch them every two weeks.
  • Groups of 3 were better in my opinion.
  • i preferred the groups of 2 because it required more work from both people rather than relying on 2 other partners. switched too often, every other week would be better.
  • I like the groups of two better because you both do the same amount of work and I feel like you personally come around more to small groups, which makes understanding easier. No I like how we switched groups, it’s good to work with different people.
  • I like being in groups of two because it’s easier to learn if you don’t know how to do something with less people, also I like switching as often as we did.
  • I liked group size of 3 better because you had more than one reference for the topics but we could have switched groups more often to liven things up
  • I like groups of 3 better because then one of the three is more likely to understand a concept and help the other group members. I think once every two weeks is a good amount of time for switching.
  • There are pros and cons to both; small groups makes it easier to work together, but if both people don’t know how to do something its hard. With three people usually one person has a better hold on the subject if the other two are struggling, but its easy to let other people do the work on whiteboards. I think switching groups every two weeks was good
  • “sometimes too soon, sometimes too long on switching seats 3 people is definitely more productive and helpful, especially with conversation”
    3 was a good fit because if two people did not understand a concept it was likely that the third person did.
  • I preferred a group of 3 because chances are at least one person would know what is going on whereas if there is only two a ot of times the super smart people are together and then not as smart people are together and are struggling to understand the concept.
  • Groups of two and switching every two weeks was good
  • 2 its easier to work together

Takeaways:

A lot more noise here. I’d say that a majority of those with a preference would prefer switching groups every two weeks (as opposed to every week as we did for a bit). And a slight majority prefer group size of two. Not a big win one way or another though. I think starting off in a group size of three and then changing to two after they’ve gotten to know each other might be the way to go.

Lastly, this comment is something that I need to be on top of “There are entire units that I have difficulty understanding because I was paired with someone who was discriminatorial towards me or who refused to work with me. I know we need to have the skill to work with people we aren’t close with, and I’m not arguing with that, but I think there also need to be some measures in place to avoid uncomfortable situations.”

I hadn’t seen any of this happening at all. I had no idea students were refusing to work with others, actively or not. I need to work on this to keep this place a comfortable place for learning.

Comments

Dan, have you read Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture?

Section 24: A Recovering Jerk, page 112, has some great remarks that you might be interested in as you try to get a handle on how to help students work better together. It’s a section that I wish my childrens’ teachers had read.

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