Does group work turn children into productive, cooperative members of society, or provide the ideal venue for bullies? In new show posted at BAM Radio Network hosted by Rae Pica, Susan Engel, director of the Program in Teaching at Williams College, and Katharine Beals, author of Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World, debated whether collaborative learning is essential for a good education or potentially harmful to vulnerable children.
Engel argues that group work teaches children how to function in the real world, where meetings, collaborative projects and just generally dealing and working with others is at the core of what most of us do for a living. She argues for “creating situations where being kind to others is necessary to their success,” and that incorporating group work is an effective anti-bullying technique.
Beals, in contrast, worries that group work creates a safe space for bullies to act out against other children, particularly in classrooms where teachers aren’t trained to monitor for aggressive behavior and have their hands too full to keep an eye on what is happening in each small group. She suggests that the places where collaborative learning actually works well are in schools that have small class sizes or which are selective, making it a difficult model to replicate for most schools.
You can listen to the entire interview here.