Teach English in Zhengji Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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The Oxford Learner Dictionary defines group dynamics as: “the way in which members of a group react to each other” (Oxfordlearnersdictionaries, 2020). Although certain aspects pertaining to group dynamics will be well within the teacher’s ability to control, this is also true for many aspects which will be out of the teacher’s immediate control. Due to diverse personality traits, different backgrounds, age gaps, and varying language abilities the group dynamic within a class could be extremely difficult to establish and maintain. There are a couple of aspects to consider when approaching group dynamics within the classroom. These include, but are not limited to the following: grouping students together, pair work within the classroom and group work versus whole class activity. When engaging in group exercises, often during the activate stage of the lesson, there are a couple of options available to create said groups. Each option, similar to most things in life has its pros and cons. The first option allows students to create their own groups. This could be beneficial depending on the age and language proficiency of the students. When dealing with a new class at the start of a semester, having students choose their groups might help ease the initial tension as students will most likely select groups they feel most comfortable in. This will afford the students an environment where they can participate in the activity without fear of ridicule or embarrassment. This, however, could have a negative effect on the class dynamics, as students will most likely choose the same group each time and ultimately a pecking order of sorts could be created within the class. One possible side effect of this could be that students stop engaging and participating in class activities. Established groups also run the risk of reducing the level of participation for certain students within each group as the pecking order principle will similarly apply. Random grouping is another viable option for creating groups within the classroom. As stated by The British Council for English Teaching (2020) the main advantage of random grouping is that it is perceived as fair by all parties involved. Random grouping has the added advantage of forcing students to work and engage with fellow students they might not have chosen. This, in turn, exposes the students to numerous personalities, which is inevitably what they will have to deal with in their day to day lives. Then there is the option of teachers selecting the groups. One of the main benefits in this instance is the teacher’s opportunity to group students which will build, motivate and enhance growth within the classroom. The teacher also has the option of trying various combinations in the class to benefit all students regardless of their ability. The disadvantage of teacher-selected groups is that weaker students will be paired with stronger ones and could feel inferior to their stronger counterparts. This, however, is something that the teacher will have to addresses as and when necessary. Another factor to consider when dealing with group dynamics is pairing. When dealing with pair work there are several advantages. Pairing increases students speaking time, changes the pace of the lesson, takes the spotlight off the teacher, and teaches the students not only how to lead, but also how to be lead. Pair work also forces students to actively engage, which is not always the case in group work. The teacher is afforded the opportunity to pair weaker students with stronger ones and encourage students to fully engage and participate. Pair work could be a great educational tool to enhance language proficiency, but teachers need to be wary of losing control of the class and ensure that all students working in pairs get equal opportunity to engage and contribute. When comparing group work with activities where the entire class is involved we need to consider the following: as previously mentioned group and pair work has numerous benefits and the majority of us spend our days engaged in group activates. One major benefit of using either group or pair work is the reduced talking time of teachers. This allows students to practice the language during class time, which in many instances will be the only time most students get to practice, as their immediate environments outside the classroom will most likely force them to revert to their native tongue. In many other instances, the teacher needs to focus the class’s attention on aspects that will not be addressed during group work. This will be the case during certain study phase sections of a lesson. The entire class will have to focus on the teacher when certain fundamental principles are addressed. All of these aspects and many more play a role in the group dynamic of a class. It is very important to establish a healthy and productive learning environment for the students and an extremely important component of this is to establish a healthy group dynamic. Healthy group dynamics can be established by orchestrating a balance between group activities and teacher-led activities. This will play a major part in the student’s ability to learn and grow and will also imprint valuable experience on how to handle and operate within groups outside of the classroom if properly executed. REFERENCE LIST: The British Council for English Teaching. 2020. Group work v. whole-class activities. Available from: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/group-work-v-whole-class-activities Oxfordlearnersdictionaries. 2020. Group Dynamics. Available from: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/dynamic_2