PRESERVICE TEACHERS’ EXPERIENCES OF GROUP WORK
Group work has been emphasized by many education standards. Research has also proven group work to be efficient in learning and teaching. However, there has been a lack of interest and appropriate implementation of group work in schools. Research has argued the lack of consideration of group work as a teaching approach due to negative elements that might exist in group work and obstruct its successful implementation, and in particular, teachers’ negative attitudes towards group work.
To address the necessity to research on teacher education to promote the implementation of group work, this study explored potential issues in group work and investigated preservice teachers’ viewpoints about group work. 18 preservice teachers in a group of four or five participated in two projects:
1) creating a Model-Eliciting Activity (MEA)–a specific type of researched modeling activity and
2) developing a team planned lesson.
After completing the projects, they answered questionnaires regarding their group work experiences, such as equal participation in presentation of final results or in conceptual development; freeloading, social loafing or laziness; administrative issues with group work; and preferences of group versus individual work.
In the results, most preservice teachers indicated that they equally participated in their group work overall. They also didn’t reveal any significant issues with freeloading, social loafing or laziness. Most had no preference in the types of assignments regarding individual versus group work. However, four preservice teachers argued that there was unequal participation in the specialization of group work, such as in presentation of final results, in conceptual development, and in data gathering. They issued that group work might allow some members to freeload and social loaf. Thus, they preferred individual work to group work. They also specified four challenges of group work:
1) members being unprepared for group meetings,
2) difficulty in coordinating work with group members,
3) lack of excitement or motivation by members, and
4) procrastination by group members.
However, all of the preservice teachers, including four who revealed negative experiences in group work, stated that their group members helped one another learn how to interact with individuals in a team environment and how to better relate to team members. They agreed the importance of negotiation between group members, the importance of teamwork, and the importance of synergy from the group work. In informal interviews, the preservice teachers also mentioned both positive and negative experiences helped them develop their knowledge to use group work in their microteaching, which was another course requirement, and further in their future classrooms.
The findings of the study show that group work has benefits for preservice teachers, regardless their positive and negative experiences, in learning and teaching environments. The current study also identifies the four negative elements in group work obstructing its successful implementation. As an implication for teacher education, the current study suggests that preservice teachers continuously need to have either positive or negative experiences in group work to develop their knowledge to address the challenges in implementation of group work in schools, such as making individuals more responsible, coordinating work, and motivating to work.