Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Student led study groups- Yes they can!

Hand over the reins to students; put them in charge!  Trust them and they CAN do it!  

In our class, this is very true of our learning process.  At first it took some getting used to, but in my third year of using student led study groups, it is now a norm in my classroom.  I will admit that it took some effort to hand over the control of learning to my students, but I have seen huge effects as a result of the shift in power.

I used this philosophy last year when I committed to a true focus on formative assessment to prepare our students for the state test.  I assessed students one day and used the information immediately the next day to guide my instruction. 
After checking the assessment, I chose my top students, who obviously knew and could demonstrate mastery of the material, and put them in charge of leading a study group made up of students who did not master the concept.  I gave each group leader a student who was close to mastery to offer support in leading the group.

  Students who missed questions were responsible for knowing the correct answers to the questions they missed and WHY the question they missed was incorrect.  The students in charge of the groups explained how they found the right answer, what strategies they used, and then guided the students in their group to finding the correct answer.  I acted as a floater between groups offering additional support to my "teachers."  "Teachers " were also in charge of evaluating student conduct and effort within their study group!

(I'm all for the thinking that if they don't understand the way I have explained something/taught something, that they either need to hear it from a peer, presented to them in a different way, or they will eventually make sense of it on their own...) 
After students taught their peers, I retaught more strategy to those who needed it and assessed again.  I saw dramatic improvements in all students' scores!

I also use student led study groups in daily classwork (formative assessment) and after giving summative assessments.  It pushes the students who have already mastered the skills to a new level of skill development-real world skill development.  They gain leadership skills, communication skills, relationship building skills, and not to mention, they feel very, very important, boosting their self-esteem!  I saw some of my shyest students blossom into leaders!

I have used the same "student driven" approach using technology in our classroom on our tablets for the past few years- I show the students something once and the first two people to get it are my tech teachers.  If another student needs help after the first time I show a skill or app, then that student raises his/her hand and one of their peers will come and guide them through the process.  

This year we are at a point where we have never been before.  The students I have this year have used tablets in their classrooms for three years in a row, this being their third year!  Basically, I can install an app on their tablet and let them discover how to use it... they end up teaching me how to use it!  They then teach peers how to use the app.

Everyone benefits from student led groups; students who need help improve content knowledge and learn new strategies, while students who have mastered content gain additional real world skills.

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