Home' Teacher : December 2010 Contents 16 TEACHER DECEMBER 2010
I was pleased to see each group produce
a very detailed and informative poster about
volcanoes that met all the requirements of
an information report -- and the students
were extremely proud of their efforts.
So far, so good, but the questions
Despite what seemed a more positive out-
come, I still felt some nagging concerns
about this teaching strategy.
Did the small group task allow optimum
learning for all, especially the students who
were happy to sit back and contribute little?
How could I overcome the difficulty
of addressing individual needs within the
group, since I was dealing with the group as
a whole rather than students as individuals?
How could I assess the learning and under-
standing of each individual in the group?
The group posters were put on display
for all students to read, but I was still won-
dered whether simply looking at another
group's poster actually developed a stu-
dent's knowledge, especially when this dis-
play didn't allow for any further question-
ing or discussion.
How could I reshape this teaching strat-
egy to better promote learning for all group
Still looking for answers
In the following term I was still looking
for ways to address my concerns. It was
by sheer luck that I decided to introduce a
teaching approach, the jigsaw strategy, into
In this strategy, each student is allocated
to a home group. Each home group mem-
ber is then allocated a topic or question to
research. After researching the topic, the stu-
dent then returns to share their knowledge
with the home group. Our topic was China.
I found some great resource books on differ-
ent aspects of China that I shared with the
students. Each group was given an aspect of
China to look at. Each group member then
had a sub-topic to research. After prepar-
ing their information, group members came
together to produce a group poster.
Learning at last
The results were amazing. While still
belonging to a group, each child was able
to engage at their ow n level of ability. That
person became an expert on one small
aspect to do with their researched sub-
It was exciting to see the students getting
on with their work independently and then
collaboratively. We shared the posters using
a carousel activity, where each group spends
time gathering information from another
group's poster to use to produce a brochure
When I was asked questions, I was able
to direct students to the expert in that area.
Children were able to explain their informa-
tion in their own words, answer questions
accurately and confidently, explain new
vocabulary to others and justify why they
had included information.
Better-quality learning occurred using
this adapted jigsaw strategy than in previous
approaches to group work. Students could
focus on understanding a smaller amount of
material in more detail rather than covering
a great deal, superficially.
As teachers, we must decide what's
important in learning. Too often, our
choices tend to be directed and influenced
by external demands rather than those that
we know can promote good learning.
Margaret Cocks teaches at St Martin
of Tours Primary School, Rosanna,
A version of this article first appeared as
'How many more to go?' in Looking into
Practice: Cases of science teachers' profes-
sional growth, published by Mon ash
Print Services/Catholic Education Office,
Melbourne, a s part of the Commonwealth
governme nt's Quality Teacher Program.
Reproduced with kind permission. For
the full set of c ases on which this se ries
draws, see Berry, A., & Keast, S. (Eds).
(2009). Looking into Practice: Cases of
science teachers' professional growth
Melbourne: Mon ash Print Services/
Catholic Education Offic e, Melbourne.
Margaret Cocks designed a project for her
students that she thought would cover many
of the learning skills she was planning to
teach and develop deeper understanding.
What for her seemed an obvious win-win
situation -- developing learning skills, meet-
ing parents' concerns and addressing her
teaching goals -- actually set her on learn-
ing journey about purposeful project work.
At first Cocks's project appeared to be
working very well, but once the oral pres-
entations started, Cocks realised that there
was little learning value for the students
presenting and even less for those listening.
Even though it was well planned and
implemented, and students' levels of effort
and enthusiasm were high, the project work
wasn't meeting Cocks's expectation for her
Using reflective cycles
SYSTEMATIC, CYCLICAL REFLECTION HELPS ALL TEACHERS TO REVIEW AND IMPROVE THEIR
PRACTICE, EXPLAIN STEPHEN KEAST AND REBECCA COOPER.
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