There has been much debate about the best way to group children yet debate and policy on grouping is not informed by good quality research in everyday classroom settings. Experimental research on small groups and psychological theory emphasise that effective group work in classrooms has enormous potential in terms of increasing children's motivation and learning. Research in classrooms has shown that although children often sit in groups, group work is not common. Groups are often formed because of factors like the classroom layout and the interests of classroom management, rather than to facilitate interactive learning. Teachers and pupils can also have concerns about using and engaging in collaborative group work.
The Project Team collaborated in this research because they believe that effective group work in classrooms has enormous potential in terms of increasing children's motivation and learning. It was our view, and we continue to hold this perspective, that research needs to address how to integrate group work into real classroom settings.
Aims of the SPRinG research
1. To enhance the achievement and motivation levels of Key Stages 1-3 pupils when working within classroom groups by actively involving teachers in a programme designed to raise task related levels of peer and interactive group work, particularly higher order cognitive exchanges and concentration on task, during typical classroom activity.
2. To provide a high standard of evidence on which to base future practice by comparing under controlled conditions the relative effectiveness of peer and interactive group work within typical classroom settings (Key Stages 1-3) in terms of pupil attainment, motivation and attitudes, and classroom processes.
The study took place at three sites - Brighton, London and Cambridge - and sought to enhance the achievement and motivation of pupils at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 (i.e., from 4 to 12 years of age). The main project ran from January 2001 to the end of 2005 but work continues in the form of follow up research and dissemination of findings. The project had five stages.
Stage 1 was the introductory phase where teacher groups were set up and the resources and initial materials to help teachers implement group-work were developed.
Stage 2 was the development phase. This involved working collaboratively with teachers in classrooms to devise ways to promote effective group work among pupils and to promote social, communication and advanced group work skills.
Stage 3 was the evaluation phase and thus the heart of the project. This stage involved an evaluation of the group work initiative by a comparison with a control group of classrooms drawn from schools involved in a different project.
Stage 4 was the applications phase which sought to transfer the skills of group work to other contexts, which are known to be problematic for teachers (e.g. developing a whole school approach to group work, schools in challenging circumstances).
Stage 5 was the dissemination phase where results and recommendations on effective group work skills were reported in academic and professional journals, conferences and meetings with research, government, LA and school based audiences.