Group work is an approach adopted in many schools across Scotland. However, research shows that group work is not always successful within the classroom. Cassidy (2010) explains that many teachers find that the majority of pupils do not take part and ‘allow’ others to take the lead and complete tasks, resulting in low level behaviour, low engagement levels and does not guarantee learning for all . Increasingly over the last few years, many schools in Scotland have used cooperative learning, a researched approach to teaching and learning which has received positive research results in USA and Canada (Cassidy 2010), as a tool to ensure the engagement of all learners. According to Johnson and Johnson (1994) the effectiveness of cooperative group work lies in engaging all learners through individual accountability. This requires every member of the group to fulfil a group role and be responsible for an aspect of the learning. Cassidy (2010) states that when children work in cooperative groups, it enhances learning, promotes achievement, engages children effectively and creates an enthusiasm for learning.
However this research does not correlate with my experiences in schools. Often, when pupils are assigned their group roles all they are concerned with is carrying out their role and do not participate in the learning or work together to achieve the group goal. After engaging in professional dialogue with colleagues, it became evident that this was a common experience shared by all. William (2016) explains that this problem arises if teachers give out the reporter role at the beginning of the lesson, as this does not create individual accountability. He states that when group members know they are not required to speak on behalf of the group, their focus, their attention and concentration will dip. If everybody in the group knows that they may be called on to be the reporter for the group, they’re collectively responsible and individually accountable and should work harder. Therefore, I have decided to carry out an investigation to explore whether this theory works in practice so that I can adapt my group work lessons to ensure high quality learning and participation for all learners.
The aim of this enquiry was to explore what impact introducing the reporter at the end of cooperative groups sessions had on the participation of learners.