The power of collaborative learning: how group work in science classes can boost student achievement


The power of collaborative learning: how group work in Science classes can boost student achievement

Group work is used by teachers across the curriculum, but it can be especially effective when delivering the sciences. Biology, chemistry and physics all lend themselves to discussion and collaborative thinking, with students encouraged to share ideas and develop a range of different hypotheses. They need to be invigorated to investigate what is in front of them, to question their peers and to learn from others.

It’s what makes scientific group work popular among science teachers, as the approach ultimately has a positive impact on pupil achievement. From boosting engagement to developing a broader understanding of the key topics, here we explore why this is the case.

Driving pupil engagement

When pupils are engaged with the lesson material, there is an increased likelihood that they’ll understand and retain the key information that is being shared with them. Group work in the sciences encourages pupils to be involved, can foster healthy competition between groups and can provide youngsters with a sense of belonging and purpose. Each piece of group work provides the basis for learning and discussion, enabling pupils to enrich their education.

Enhancing conceptual understanding

Sharing information as part of a group discussion can encourage pupils to challenge their peers, especially in multi-ability classrooms. By talking about the subject matter, they can explore the theory in greater detail and potentially gain new perspectives from others around them. This has been shown to increase understanding of core scientific concepts, which then enables pupils to better answer questions come exam season. As a result, it’s a key reason why those in science teaching roles will put an emphasis on group work throughout the year.

Making the sciences easier to remember 

Linked to developing conceptual understanding, is the ability of group work to also drive up knowledge retention. As pupils tend to be more engaged when studying together in small groups, it is often easier for them to remember and repeat information when asked. Various scientific and psychological studies suggest that the accuracy of recalled information among those involved in group work is often higher too.

Helping pupils to articulate thoughts and ideas

Working with others allows pupils to put their thoughts across, and opens those ideas up to questions and critical thinking. This forces youngsters to be analytical in their approaches, which benefits them in both exams and everyday life. It also means that pupils will need to explain their reasoning and articulate their thoughts effectively – a powerful tool in both the sciences and other subjects across the curriculum.

For science teachers across the country, effectively utilising group work can make all the difference when looking to drive up pupil achievement. Regardless of an individual’s knowledge, working with others can enable them to think outside-of-the-box, develop more wide-reaching hypotheses and ultimately increase their scientific understanding.


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