Collaborative Small Groups – Middle School PLC

Seeing lessons where students take on the responsibility of learning is always something that I feel empowers the students and works to help students become true life long learners. I feel this because it gets our students in the habit of learning on their own, both inside and outside of the classroom. The strategy, collaborative study groups, get students working together, asking questions, reflecting on learning and making connections between current learning and previous learning. Collabroative study groups focus on one specific question that is not yet fully understood by the entire group, one student is presenting their thinking and together, all students ask questions and take notes as they work together to arrive at a solution. For a more in-depth explanation of this strategy, visit AVID Collaborative Study Groups.

Quality Indicators

The teachers, lead team, admin team and coaches all work together to construct quality indicators for our professional learning cycles. These indicators work to guide our students to participate in the strategy effectively, help us, as teachers, understand more about what our role is as educators and reflect on what our classroom environment should include to better support the process.

Student Presenter:

  • Articulate the specific question to the group
  • Thinks critically about the question
  • Interacts with the question
  • Interacts with the group members by responding to their questions
  • Records thinking on the board

Students as Group Members:

  • Respect the ideas and thinking of others
  • Use inquiry to gain a deeper understanding of content
  • Actively participating by listening, asking and answering questions and taking notes
  • Contribute to an environment where others feel comfortable and ask questions
  • Communicate to teacher about the group experience (reflection piece)

Teacher:

  • Monitors the collaborative study group to coach the process
  • Rotates to all groups
  • Supports the students in developing critical thinking skills
  • Handles classroom management
  • Takes notes for student presenter
  • Models respect of ideas and thinking of others
  • Models inquiry for deeper understanding of content
  • Encourages active participation
  • Contributes to create an environment where others feel comfortable and ask questions

Room Environment

  • Arrange the group seating to promote collaboration among all group members
  • White board space needs to be available for all groups
  • Group of students (6-7 per group)

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In the Classroom

Two of our teachers’ classes, Ms. Morris and Mr. Hill were filmed to show how collaborative study group can look different in different grades and subjects.

Watch the video clips here:

While I was filming the lessons, I noticed the power of diving in deep to one question and I recognized how powerful it is when students can rely on each other to learn. The community that is built and the ownership of learning is something that goes beyond a basic lecture because it gives the students the opportunity to apply their learning and to get feedback from their peers. It moves the students from a place of compliance to a place of empowerment because the learning is theirs to own and take control over, yet they are supported by their peers as they work to process complex questions. The reflection piece at the end, where students make connections between current learning and previous learning, helps the learners improve upon their skills. When collaborative study groups are applied in classrooms, they can empower students and help them recall prior learning experiences and develop new learning experiences.


A huge shout out to our Feaster Charter Middle School leads for being open to sharing and reflecting on practices! This is something that truly helps us grow as a school and a community because we are working together as a team to reflect and grow.

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