5. Adapt teaching methods for the different groups: One of the biggest mistakes is putting students in groups and then assigning them all the same goals, giving them the same work, and using the same teaching methods for each one. One group might need constant prompts and direct instruction while another is set with a learning goal and list of resources. There’s no point in grouping the kids if they aren’t getting differentiated instruction.

6. Teach students how to work in groups: Whether the students are staying in their seats and need to learn how to stay on task or moving from station to station, they’ll need to have clear expectations for their group learning. Many teachers practice how to work in groups—listening, using quiet voices, following the pattern of the stations, etc.—before they assign group work. This allows the teacher to focus on the learning goals and not behavior.

When teachers decide to start flexible grouping, the presenters advised that they start small. They should pick their strongest subject or the most adaptable project. More important, they need to make sure the parents understand and support the group learning.

“This is a different system then what they went to school with, so it’s frightening for them,” said Brown. “You need to talk with parents and help them understand that this way I know exactly what your child needs. I’m going to provide a targeted instruction to meet that child’s needs, and then I’m going to assess based on that targeted instruction so I know whether your child is ready to move forward.”

About the Presenters

Dina Brulles, Ph.D. is a school administrator and the gifted-education director for Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District. Recognized for her expertise in creating and supervising schoolwide cluster grouping, she also assists districts throughout the United States in developing gifted-education programs, including those districts serving culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students. She holds a Ph.D. in gifted education and an M.S. in curriculum and instruction and serves on the faculty of the Graduate College of Education at Arizona State University. Brulles coauthored the books: A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning; Designing Gifted Education Programs: From Purpose to Implementation; Differentiated Lessons for All Learners; The Cluster Grouping Handbook; Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classrooms; and Helping All Gifted Children Learn.

6 tips to help teachers pull off collaborative learning

Karen Brown, M.Ed. is the gifted program mentor for Arizona’s Paradise Valley Schools. Brown works with K-12 teachers to ensure that the instruction provides the appropriate challenge for all students. She teaches in the gifted education master’s program at Arizona State University and consults throughout the country. Brown received the 2018 NAGC Master’s and Specialist Award and was the co-recipient of the 2013 NAGC Professional Development Award. She has coauthored two books: Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner and A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning.

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About the Author:

Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Pusey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. She is working with edWeb.net as a marketing communications advisor and writer.