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Opening the classroom to the community: Interactive groups

Interactive groups

Site: ECML - Moodle | Community
Course: Virtual Open Course (VOC): Collaborative Community Approach to Migrant Education
Book: Opening the classroom to the community: Interactive groups
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Date: Sunday, 18 August 2019, 11:44 PM

4. Interactive groups: an inclusive methodology

Diversity is possibly the word that better describes the current society. In schools, as micro social systems, dealing with diversity has also become crucial in terms of both learning and social repercussion. Decisions about what methodology is more effective or which is the best way of grouping students within classrooms are part of the response to this reality (Valls & Kyriakides 2013).

At this regard, Interactive Groups have been proved to be a successful form of classroom organization able to cope with diversity and have a positive impact on ALL students achievement.

4.1. Classroom arrangement in Interactive Groups

In interactive groups, the class is divided into 4 or 5 groups, each organized around four or five students in an heterogeneous way regarding curricular competence, gender, language, ethnicity,... Each of these groups is supported by an adult (a professional or a volunteer in the school) who oversees a particular task (INCLUD-ED 2009).

Four or five activities are designed for each session, according to the number of groups. Activities in the groups are short (around 10-15 minutes) and normally centred in instrumental learning (majority language, foreign languages and maths) and connected to a specific Didactic Unit.

After completing one activity, all students in the group rotate and move to the next group in order to work on a different activity and with a different volunteer. As a result of this dynamics, in about one hour, all the students are able to work on four or five different curricular tasks and interact with four or five different adults apart from their group mates (Ibid.)

interactive groups

picture by Ruth García Carrasco

4.2. Objectives

Interactive Groups are conceived to offer all students an education of the highest quality. To get this, low achievers are not segregated from their regular classroom. All the needed resources are introduced in the classroom to guarantee that these students can continue their education with the highest possible expectations (Gràcia & Elboj 2005). Having this in mind, interactive groups aim at:

  • Coping with diversity into the regular classroom, contributing to overcome school failure and segregation:

    • Inclusion vs segregation.

    • Remedial classes vs regular classroom work.

  • Promoting dialogic and cooperative learning, increasing interaction in the classroom.

    • Peer interaction.

    • Students and volunteers.
  • Developing the student's teamwork skills and the capacity to interact and collaborate with others effectively.
  • Speeding up the process of learning and increase learners' interest.

    • Through interaction between students, teachers and volunteers.

    • By staying in constant activity.

  • Intensifying instrumental learning and favour the learning of values and students' emotional development.

    • Solidarity, respet for diversity, teamwork, initiative, self-steem.

  • Contributing to the improvement of coexistence.

  • Providing the necessary support to all students through maintaining a common learning environment and reorganising the natural existing resources.

    • Participation of a diverse range of professionals, volunteers and families in the classroom: tutors, specialist teachers, volunteers, families,...

    • Cooperation among students: peer tutoring, cooperative learning, diversity and differences among students is understood as an enriching element that ease interaction between students.

  • Guaranteeing the acquisition of curricular contents, and a better understanding of the majority language as well as other languages.

4.3. Volunteers: adults participating in the groups

Volunteering is a key element in the development of interactive groups as provide new opportunities for learning through interaction, not only with peers but also with adults. So that, if the volunteers come from different backgrounds and cultures, have different beliefs and skills or even speak different languages, the potential for exposure to all types of learning experiences increases exponentially.

However, volunteers do not replace teachers, who remain responsible for the proper functioning of the class. The role of each one can be summarized as follows:

  • The teacher:
    • DESIGNS the activities. He or she is the one who knows what contents have to be worked or reinforced.
    • He or she COORDINATES and gives PEDAGOGICAL COHERENCE to the activities.
    • He or she takes the TIMES, OVERSEES the general development of the session and cope with ASSESSMENT.
  • The volunteers:
    • They act as FACILITATORS, dynamic agents who promote solidarity-based interaction and dialogues among students so that every student in each group achieves the learning objectives.
    • The adults participating in the groups can be: family members, community members, former students, volunteer university students, teachers from the same centre.

4.4. Type of activities

The type of activities designed for each session of interactive groups, will depend on the final goal of such session: introduce a topic, review or reinforce some contents, etc...

However, all of them will endeavor to provoke interactions between the students and students and volunteers; and switch collective type tasks with other of an individual nature.


picture by Ruth García Carrasco

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

NOTE: Interactive groups aim at provoking interactions. In individual tasks, each member of the group will be provided with his/her own template or worksheet that will be solved cooperatively after discussion between all the participants in the group. In collective activities, the whole group will work with the same resource or material.

4.5. Benefits of Interactive Groups

Among others, these are the main benefits derived from developing interactive groups:

  • Promote interaction between students and adults.

  • Generate more motivation and enthusiasm in performing tasks.

  • Encourage creativity.

  • Encourage the participation of all students.

  • Favour the acquisition of curricular contents, the majority language and other languages.

  • Develop in students the ability to listen to others and respect the opinion of others.

  • Promote collaborative learning encouraging mutual support.

  • Generate higher expectations (“yes, we can” effect) and improve self-esteem.

  • Allow a closer monitoring of students and by more adults who watch over the evolution of the group and its difficulties.

  • Open the classroom door to the Community.

4.6. References

- Gràcia, S. & Elboj, C. (2005). La educación secundaria en comunidades de aprendizaje. El caso de Aragón. Web 24 May 2014. http://ddd.uab.cat/pub/educar/0211819Xn35p101.pdf

- INCLUD-ED. (2009). Actions for success in schools in Europe. European Comission Web 24 May 2014. http://www.helsinki.fi/~reunamo/article/INCLUDED_actions%20for%20success.pdf

- Pujolás, P. (2009). Aprendizaje cooperativo y educación inclusiva: una forma práctica de aprender juntos alumnos diferentes. Web 1 June 2014. http://www.mecd.gob.es/dms-static/6440d452-6665-4cac-8b63-2d07f5b565bd/2009-ponencia-20-pere-pujolas-pdf.pdf

- Valls, R. & Kyriakides, L. (2013). The power of interactive groups: How diversity of adults volunteering in classroom groups can promote inclusion and success for children of vulnerable minority ethnic populations. Cambridge Journal of Education.