Does the method reproduce preexisting group dynamics, especially marginalization?
- Do these methods reproduce preexisting forms of hierarchical marginalization?
- Do they generate group dynamics that keep “coincidentally” producing the same distribution of roles?
- Do they give rise to leadership positions, processing positions, and/or positions without any say at all? If so, who gets which position?
Group work has many advantages. Students get acquainted with each other. There is more time for each person to talk in discussions. Participants can learn from each other and test and expand their knowledge in a space under less observation. Long-established roles in the larger group can be mixed up.
At the same time, a small group creates a new distribution of roles: Who moderates the conversation? How are decisions made? Who takes notes? Who keeps track of time? Who presents the results? Are any students not included or even actively excluded? Different tasks often do not receive the same recognition. They also lead to differing labels of competence. This leads to the formation of a hierarchy.
There are a number of ways to handle these dynamics:
- You can start by consciously considering potential group dynamics when you divide the groups.
- Encourage your students to pay attention to the distribution of roles so that allgroup members have a chance to contribute their own solutions and ideas to the group.
- You can also provide instructions for a group discussion in which the first part of the task involves each participant presenting ideas without them being commented on or evaluated, allowing for a discussion only after everyone has participated. Specify that multiple group members present the results and that the other members can add in ideas. You can also suggest that tasks such as taking notes, illustration, or time management should be taken in turns.
- Give the team members opportunities to give feedback about their working situation and evaluate the responses with an eye to gender and diversity.