We talk about learning architecture this week. It is a “design of framework” that helps to organize the instruction. Decisions of what teaching strategies to be employed and how to deliver them are made here. There are a lot of interdependent variables that you need to take into account, for instance, the overall goal of the instruction/ training, practical economics constrain and culture/philosophy of a wider system. Strategies and techniques you use should conform to some first (learning & teaching) principles mentioned in class.
Both group size and group structure play a part in collaborative/cooperative learning. One thing I noticed in Romi’s book is that he said “heterogeneous groups are the best” when talking about ways to group students. Is heterogeneous grouping always the best choice in instructions at the school level, compared to homogeneous grouping and random grouping? From articles online, I found that groups composed of a mixture of students on different academic levels seems to be preferred by most people (although random grouping is the one I experienced most so far). Homogeneous grouping is blamed for lacking varied social interactions because everyone is on the same level or working at the same speed. Also, similarities may lead to boredom, and thus fail to motivate students engaging in class activities. These are shortcomings most widely discussed. However, no one could deny that people feel comfortable when they are grouped in this way. No one feels that they are above or below the academic challenge.
Reasons for thinking highly of heterogeneous grouping partially lie in the trend of peer learning in which high-achieving students can tutor and remediate less capable students. Groups of mixed abilities students could help to improve sharing capabilities and peer relations. The key point is to make sure higher performing students really learn something. The pay-off. One big concern over mixed abilities grouping is that by doing so it may slow down the learning of higher achieving students. Some research reveals that “heterogeneous grouping …have no negative affect on high performing students (according to their performance in standardized tests) and they have immensely positive effects on lower and middle level students.” Another issue is work distribution. Stronger and more dominate students do the work while others contribute nothing in a mixed abilities group. It is not rare to see. Perhaps it is not the way we group students the problem, but how to motivate less capably students to involve in learning that matters. Homogeneous grouping, however, could provide those less academic outstanding students with chances to explore their potential.