Have you ever attended a class where you found yourself nodding along with your peers even though you did not understand anything?
If yes, then you are not alone. This can happen due to several reasons like you missed a class that was supposed to lay down the basics or the way an educator is approaching and explaining a concept just isn’t connecting with you, etc.
Most of the time, that one student in the class doesn’t get noticed though. Educators deliver a lesson and if most of the students nod their heads when asked if they have understood, they move along to the next concept.
But ‘the most’ is not enough. Even more so when a lot of the learners just nod because their peers are nodding. In such situations, Guided Math Groups save the day by specifically addressing these concerns. This blog gives a basic overview of what Guided Math Groups are, the steps to implement them, and critically evaluates their pros and cons.
Guided Math groups: Understanding the “what”
Guided math groups operate on the principle of Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. The idea is to meet the learner where they are in terms of their proficiency and how they are in terms of their learning style.
Based on various kinds of assessments, individuals requiring the same level of instruction are grouped together. The educator then plans and delivers the lesson using different techniques that will match this group’s needs. These groups and their members are then changed from time to time based on subsequent and continuous assessments.
Learners, after they are done with group lessons, usually break out and practice what they have learned individually or in pairs.
Another key feature of guided math groups is pushing the individual learner just a little over their comfort zone. This method of instruction, overall, promotes growth, and independent learning and increases the level of proficiency.
Steps to launch a guided math group
Starting guided math groups from scratch can seem like a lot of work. This is why it is helpful to break the process down and take it one step at a time.
1. Planning and Preparation
This step might be the most time and energy-consuming one but is also the most crucial. This is where the educator has to decide what concepts will be taught among guided groups, how will the lesson be delivered to the entire class as well as to smaller groups, and what methods of lesson delivery and assessments will be used.
The more organized, confident and prepared the educator is while introducing this new method of learning, the smoother the process of learners adjusting and getting involved is likely to be.
2. Lesson Delivery
In this step, the educator delivers the lesson to the entire class as one. Here the goal is to teach in a way that lesson is not too challenging but not too simplistic either. The educator tries to customize the content of the lesson and the way it is delivered according to the average learning styles and levels of proficiency of the class.
3. Group Division
The lesson delivered in the class is followed by assessments to see how much the learners benefited from it and to assess their level of proficiency. Based on similar levels of proficiency and learning styles, learners are broken down into smaller groups.
4. Small Group Lesson Delivery
Once the smaller groups are made, the educator develops a learning plan that will meet the learners of different groups in the way they need and will benefit. The same lesson is once again delivered in a way that is best suited for their level of proficiency, but, at the same time, challenges the learners just enough to increase their level.
The learners then break off into individuals or pairs to practice what they have learned. After the lesson is delivered in smaller groups, again assessments take place to gauge if the learners are benefitting from the type and level of instruction and if they need to be transitioned into some other group that will suit their current needs better.
Benefits of having a guided group
An innovative approach to education, Guided Math Groups also have their equally unique benefits. Some of the pros include:
1. Peer and independent learning
When the learners are divided into small groups, they not only learn from the educator delivering the lesson but can also clarify doubts and seek more information from their peers. Additionally, when the small group breaks off for independent or paired practice, the learners get to apply what they have understood without anyone’s help or guidance.
2. Individualized attention and support
The assessment process includes paying special attention to learners’ individual learning styles and proficiency before grouping the ones on a similar level together.
When the educator is teaching a group of, let’s say 5 students, instead of a class of, say 40 students, learners receive more face time with the educator. This gives both of them an opportunity to understand what will best meet the learning requirements and enhance the learner’s level of proficiency.
3. Just the right amount of push
As mentioned above, a special feature of the lesson being delivered in smaller groups involves pushing the learners in the group. This means tasking them with problems that are just the right amount of challenging and will encourage them to learn more and do better instead of demotivating them.
Implementing a guided math group, while can be extremely beneficial for the students, does require some considerations. Some of the things to keep in mind while doing so could include:
4. Individualized planning of the lessons
All the lessons delivered in small groups need to be customized according to the learning styles and levels of proficiency of those groups.
5. Maintaining a continuous cycle of assessment
Assessments are an essential component of Guided Groups. Everything from division into small groups, planning the lesson according to learning styles, transitioning to different groups, etc. is based on continuous assessments.
6. Time Management and Planning
The preparation part of setting up Guided Groups requires exceptional skills and resources. Then conducting various rounds of assessments, dividing the learners into small groups, customizing the lesson based on their needs, and constantly adapting and staying on top of it all is not possible without skills like proper time management and planning.
How long should guided math groups be?
The end goal of going through the process of dividing the class into smaller groups, continuous assessments, group transitioning, individual and paired practice, etc. is to ensure that everyone in the class understands the concepts and is equally proficient at applying them.
Hence small groups are gradually dissolved when learners move from a small group with a lower level of proficiency to a higher one to better meet their evolved needs. Guided math groups keep going on as long as there are students with varying levels of proficiency and eventually come to an end when each student has been challenged enough to meet the goals of the lesson and match the level of proficiency of everyone else in the class.
Setting up a guided math group includes planning and preparing all the lessons, assessments, and various tools required for both in advance, delivering the lesson in class in a way that benefits the average student, making small groups based on similar learning styles and levels of proficiency and delivering the lesson in a more individualized way to the group. This process requires continuous assessments and adaptive preparation.
Guided math groups, while do require a lot of time, effort, planning, and preparation, can be an excellent tool to ensure equitable, individualized, and inclusive education. They meet the learner where they are and challenge and encourage them to learn and grow.