Unit 3 - Group work

Session 3.1 - Group work: Same task and different tasks group work

From OER in Education

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Learning intentions and objectives.
In this session you will learn about:

  • group work in interactive teaching as a way of encouraging participation and collaborative learning
  • different types of talk in groups, including exploratory talk
  • genuine group work (not just sitting in a groups)
  • how and when to use same task group work or different tasks group work
  • group composition and randomising roles to encourage participation

Success criteria.
To meet the learning intentions you will:

  • watch a slideshow and draw out new knowledge of the importance of group work
  • devise same task/different tasks questions for use during group work
  • create groups by numbering and number group members for the purpose of randomising who reports back

ICT components.
The ICT components you will focus on are You will plan a lesson for classroom use of

  • Geogebra,
  • Slideshows,
  • (optional) concept mapping software.

Classroom based activities (with your students, after this session):

  • You will do a lesson with your students that involves Geogebra, slideshows, or (optionally) concept mapping software.

Resources needed.

Presentation files, projector, paper.

Review of follow-up activities from last session

Activity icon.png Review (10 min) of the planned activity, other strategies, and peer observation.

  • Did you observe a buddy practising questioning in their classroom? Did your observation help your buddy? If yes, elaborate with specific examples about the changes in your buddy’s questioning after the activity. (You might want to continue the observation activity for a few more weeks)
  • What did you learn by observing your buddy? Were there any questioning and handling responses strategies that you learned from your buddy?
  • Did you notice any changes in pupils’ participation due to your new questioning and handling responses strategies? Share one strategy that you found most effective in your classroom. Explain reasons for why you think that the strategy was effective.
  • Did you try any strategies for improving the quality of pupils’ responses? Which strategy or strategies led to chains of thinking about the content that you were teaching?

Activity icon.png Review (10 min) of netbook based activities in the classroom.

  • ICT activity – did you use the netbooks during the last week for the geogebra activity?
  • Did you try anything else?
  • How familiar are your students with using the netbooks?
  • How familiar are you with using the netbooks?


Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Watching a slideshow on group work. Watch the slideshow about group work. Write one significant aspect about group work that you have learned from this slideshow on a piece of paper. Stick them up on a board/wall with sticky tape or lay them out on a table for everyone to see.

Same task group work and different tasks group work

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Activity icon.png Individual activity (5 min): Read the background text on same task group work and different tasks group work.

Background reading

'Same task group work' and 'different task group work' are important concepts in interactive teaching.

Same task group work involves assigning the same problem to each group. Each group’s presentation provides a different perspective/way of solving the problem. For example,

  • A farmer has a plot of land of size 30 metres x 20 metres. He has to plant 60 trees and 20 shrubs. Which pattern of planting would you suggest to the farmer? Why? Consider that the shrubs should not be shadowed by the trees so that they get light.”
  • “New classrooms are being built for grades one and two in another rural area.Tables and chairs are needed for these classrooms. Give suggestions about the size and shape of the tables and chairs to the headmaster. Each group can give one suggestion for a table and a chair. Explain your suggestions with reasons.”

Different tasks group work involves assigning different aspects of the same problem to each group. Each group’s presentation is like a piece of the jigsaw that completes the whole picture. For example,

  • The Zambian health minister has asked you to make handouts/pamphlets about diseases. The pamphlets will be distributed in hospitals to inform people about prevention of diseases. The diseases for which handouts are needed are: (a) Tuberculosis; (b) Malaria and (c) HIV/AIDS. Three groups will work on the different diseases. In your group, consider which information you want to include and why.”  
  • “The local environment committee has observed that pollution is increasing in your area. They have asked you to find out the reasons for increasing pollution and suggest ways to decrease it. Prepare a presentation for different types of pollution: (a) air pollution, (b) water pollution, (c) noise pollution and (d) soil pollution.”

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Discussion on group work. Discuss:

  • What are your general observations about questions for group work?
  • How are the questions for same task group work different from different tasks group work? What is the advantage of setting different tasks to groups?
  • Suggest a topic that you could teach through same task group work.
  • Suggest topics that you could teach through different tasks group work.

Brief reflection on modelling

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (5 min) on identifying group work activities used in the programme so far and thinking about why same task/different tasks. You may have already noticed that some activities in our programme were labelled "same task group work", and other activities were labelled as "different tasks group work". Can you recall what they were? Check through your workshop handouts and see what they were. Why do you think they were designed as same task/different tasks?

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (5 min): Facilitator talk on modelling activities in workshop sessions. You see that we are using very similar approaches in this workshop (such as same task and different tasks group work) as we would use in the classroom. We call this "modelling of classroom practice during professional learning activities".

Forming random groups by numbering

Activity icon.png Group formation (5 min) by assigning numbers, and numbering group members. All participants get up and stand in a queue. Each person says a number from ‘1’ to ‘3’ at their turn. So, the first person says ‘1’, second says ‘2’ and third says ‘3’. Then the fourth says ‘1’, fifth says ‘2’ and sixth says ‘3’ and so on. Everybody who said ‘1’ should form group one (G1). Similarly, everybody who said ‘2’ and ‘3’ should form group two (G2) and group three (G3) respectively. Sit on the tables marked with your group number. In the classroom, this is an effective way of randomly allocating pupils to groups and it avoids friendship or ability groupings.

The following video shows Pindi, a teacher in South Africa, numbering her students for the purpose of grouping them. Watch the video together as a whole group and discuss your observations afterwards within your groups. Think about the following:

  • What forward planning would Pindi have had to do prior to assigning students to groups?
  • Was the process a smooth one?
  • What other ways might the process have been improved?


Teacher allocates group numbers

Teacher allocating group numbers to learners as they enter class

Video/Pindi graphs 3.1-1.m4v, https://oer.opendeved.net/wiki/Video/Pindi_graphs_3.1-1.m4v,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Graphs folder.About this video. Duration: 1:42 (Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "". watch on YouTube, local play / download options / download from dropbox)(Series: Graphs, episode 1)

After spending a few minutes discussing the video, allocate a number (1, 2, 3, and so forth up to the number of members) for each group member. Keep it a secret from your facilitator i.e. do not tell who has which number to your facilitator. All group members should know this information - it will be required for the following activity. (If you did this in a class with young children, assign them a number so they don’t waste time deciding which number to be.)

Devising questions for group work

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (10 min): Formulate open-ended questions. Formulate open-ended questions that can be assigned to groups during a forthcoming group work activity in your classroom. Each group (G1, G2 and G3) should formulate at least one same task group work question and one different tasks group work question. You can devise more questions if there is time. Be prepared to feedback your suggestions to the whole class if asked.

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (10 min): Reporting back from group. After the activity, the facilitator calls out a number (1 to number of members). For example, if maximum number of group members is 4; facilitator can say any number from 1 to 4. The group member with this number will present the questions on behalf of the group. Similar procedure is followed for groups G2 and G3.

This procedure means no-one knows in advance who will have to present, so everyone gets involved in case it is them!


  • How well did your group work together? Did everyone participate equally? How would you rate your group work on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is most effective)? Why? Use the ideas in the Powerpoint presentation as criteria for judging effectiveness (see Unit 3.1 Group Work for Interactive Teaching.ppt (info)).
  • Choose one or more questions that you could use in your class this week
  • Are there any aspects of group work that you foresee as potential problems? How will you solve them?

Video: Group discussion on vertebrates and rectangles

We now watch three videos: First a pair of clips on group discussion about the classification of vertebrates, then one video on rectangles.

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on group discussion. These two video clips show Eness, a teacher in a community school near Lusaka, interacting with a Grade 3 class. The children are devising their own classifications of animals depicted in photographs on tablet computers, and recording their ideas on mini-blackboards. There is one clip of pupils working alone, then one with the teacher present. Watch the following two videos. As you want the videos, reflect on these questions:

  • What was the teacher able to achieve in this small group work that would be difficult in the whole class?
  • What is the role of the teacher during group work in these clips?
  • How did the teacher involve all pupils in the discussion?

Questions for reflection on these two as well as the next video:

  • What would you do in your classroom while your pupils are engaged in group work?
  • How would you encourage all pupils to be involved in the group work?
  • How would you ensure that all pupils have contributed to the final output of group work?


Mini-blackboards group work

Groupwork using mini-blackboards: group of 5 recording under their own category of ‘animals with no legs’ and interacting as a group

Video/Eness vertebrates 6.mp4, https://oer.opendeved.net/wiki/Video/Eness_vertebrates_6.mp4,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Eness Vertebrates folder.About this video. Duration: 3:43 (Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "". watch on YouTube, local play / download options / download from dropbox)(Series: Eness Vertebrates, episode 06)(Transcript available here or via YouTube captions.)


Teacher interaction

Teacher interacts with group

Video/Eness vertebrates 7.mp4, https://oer.opendeved.net/wiki/Video/Eness_vertebrates_7.mp4,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Eness Vertebrates folder.About this video. Duration: 3:46 (Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "". watch on YouTube, local play / download options / download from dropbox)(Series: Eness Vertebrates, episode 07)

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min): Video on group discussion. In this lesson Grade 7 pupils in a semi-rural government school near Chongwe were exploring the relationship between area and perimeter. They worked in groups, using Geogebra software on netbook computers.

Suggested questions for reflection are:

  • What is the role of the teacher during group work in this clip?
  • How does a teacher know when to intervene?
  • How can a teacher encourage peer support during group work? Would Abel’s technique of bringing in older pupils or faster learners to help their peers aid a teacher with a large class?
  • How did the use of ICT help the learners’ enquiry?

Suggested questions for reflections for this and the previous video:

  • What would you do in your classroom while your pupils are engaged in group work?
  • How would you encourage all pupils to be involved in the group work?
  • How would you ensure that all pupils have contributed to the final output of group work?


Students collaborate on GeoGebra investigation on area and perimeter

Introduction to group work, then students doing group work. The teacher supports students in group work, but the students find it difficult to follow the teacher's explanations. Towards the end of the clip, the teacher then asks some students to come over, to explain the issue to the group in their own words.

Video/New Abel clip 4.m4v, https://oer.opendeved.net/wiki/Video/New_Abel_clip_4.m4v,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Abel rectangles folder.About this video. Duration: 6:56 (Some use of "" in your query was not closed by a matching "". watch on YouTube, local play / download options / download from dropbox)(Series: Abel rectangles, episode 05)

Whole group discussion on the role of the teacher

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min) on teacher participation in group work. Now discuss the questions for reflection that went with the previous two videos.

ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (5 min) on Etherpad. We have already used Etherpad for making collaborative notes about the sessions. Review the notes made in Etherpad so far. Does everybody understand how Etherpad works?

Activity icon.png Different-tasks group work (15 min) with Etherpad. It's now time for everybody to try out how Etherpad works. Work in pairs: One person who has more experience, and one person who has has got less experience of Etherpad. Think of some good exercises to do, that benefit from collaborative editing in Etherpad. In designing these exercises, think about two questions:

  1. How could you use Etherpad for interactive teaching in the classroom? What kind of activities would lend themselves to Etherpad? How would the use of Etherpad be different from using a text editor (without collaborative features)?
  2. How could you use Etherpad to support the present programme? For instance, some participants may want to edit and tidy up the notes from this or other sessions. Some participants could plan a lesson together.

Connecting with overarching goals of the programme

Activity icon.png Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:

  • Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
  • Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
  • Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
  • Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
  • If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
  • Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
  • You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.

You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.

Follow-up activities

Activity icon.png Agreeing follow-up activities (5 min).

Part A: Carry out one same task group work and one different tasks group work in your classroom. You could use the questions that were formed during the above activity. Plan in advance:

  • (a) how will you form the groups,
  • (b) what will you do while pupils are engaged,
  • (c) how will you ensure that all pupils are participating and
  • (d) how will you encourage agreement, disagreement and negotiation?

Try out the numbering strategy for randomly selecting the presenter.

Part B: Can you suggest at least 3 other ways in which you might select group members at random for giving a presentation? If uncertain, refer back to strategies for increasing participation in answering questions from Unit 2, session 3, activity 5.

Part C: (optional) One volunteer from each group G1, G2 and G3 (formed during above activity) should post their questions on the Google groups for all participants. Other participants should reply with a comment when they have seen the questions.