Group Work

Stephanie Wilton Kumagai

Stephanie Wilton Kumagai

Working in small groups in and out of class is an integral part of the SIT experience.  Since MAT focuses on real-world experiences, the type of collaboration and effective communication  that is required of teachers in the workplace is highly valued here.   In this post, I describe my experience with group work in  MAT.

Working in groups so much has been a challenging and rewarding process.  In a two-hour class, we typically spend more than an hour in small group discussions and projects.  For example, in an “average”  day in our Approaches to Teaching Languages class we might get into small groups to discuss the main themes from the assigned readings with focus questions, come together to discuss it as a whole class, participate in a demonstration of the approach we are currently studying, analyze our experience and reactions in small groups, and then come back together as a class to explore questions that arose from the discussions.

group work

Small Group Work in Approaches to Teaching

For someone who likes to work independently, it can be exhausting sometimes.  I find that working so much in small groups, especially for group projects,  can be difficult because we each come with different  communication styles which on occasion clash and cultural misunderstandings occur.  Those times  truly push the limits of  my communication skills and my patience.   However, learning from my peers has been such a valuable experience that I’m glad for all the group work.  (Even the frustrating times!)  It has encouraged me to grow and adapt in ways that I would not have without this experience.  Before, I was not comfortable asserting myself when someone interrupted me.  Now, I speak up for myself!

group-work-2

Group Project Planning in LALP

I first realized the importance of working in small groups so much after a project designing a lesson for one of our classes.  It had been a frustrating process where personalities clashed and making decisions that everyone agreed on seemed impossible.  When we went to present our final product, it ended up being a successful lesson.

In reflecting on the experience, I realized that all the struggling pushed us to come up with compromises that were creative and exciting.  We ended up with a product that was much better than anything I could have came up with on my own.  Learning to work together and communicate respectfully, even when there was a difference of opinion, is the kind of real-life learning that I really appreciate about the SIT MAT program, and why I think all the group work is important.

Previously in my teaching, I did not do a large amount of small group work.  Instead I would often have students work in pairs or individually.  However, now that I have experienced the growth in interpersonal communication skills that can be achieved through doing group work, I am inclined to use it more in my classes.   I think that encouraging my students to learn from their peers through small group activities and reflect on the group dynamics and learning process afterward is an important aspect of teaching.

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One Response to “Group Work”

  1. Christine Says:

    Stephanie:
    I was happy to read your post about working in groups. I spoke to you at the Open House in October and have recently been accepted to the MAT program beginning September 09. I have similar opinions regarding group work and luckily have come to the same conclusions as you have; it is rewarding and you can learn a lot about yourself!. So thank you for sharing.
    Christine

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