Learner Centred Methodologies
Written by Rhonda Wynne, Ireland
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Learner Support
Valuing Diversity
Learner Centred Methodologies
Before the Course
Characteristics of Adult Learners
Anxieties of Adult Learners
Motivating Factors in Adult Learning
Recognition of Prior Learning
The Learning Provider
Learning Needs Analysis
Overview of Course Design and Planning Process
During the Course
Creating an Adult-friendly Environment
Teaching Strategies
Experiential Learning
Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
After the Course
Tutor Self-evaluation
Management Review


Organising students into groups provides an opportunity for students to work closely with their classmates. The group(s) can be asked to solve a problem, perform a certain task, or to debate a topic.

Benefits of group work

Involves students actively in class
Facilitates the exchange of ideas and opinions
Develops communication skills
Promotes team working skills
Develops leadership skills
Demonstrates the value of exchanging ideas
Highlights how to consider more extreme/radical opinions and negotiate for a consensus opinion
Requires students to deal with conflict, or establish ground rules for managing disagreements
Enables students to discuss course content in the specialised language of the subject
Encourages students who may be reticent about presenting their ideas in large group/class situations
Requires students to divide work/task into manageable blocks
Ensures co-operation on the delegation of tasks
Allows students of mixed abilities to work side by side and draw on individual strengths to complete the task

Allocating groups

Groups can be allocated in a number of ways.

Randomly allocated groups can be easy to organise, e.g. count the class members in blocks from 1 to 6 - have all the ones work together, all the twos together, etc. This ensures class cliques are broken and that students get an opportunity to work with other class members with whom they may not ordinarily mix. This can be seen as a fair way to divide the group and ensures everyone is allocated to a group and no one is sidelined. However, it may place the more difficult individuals in the same group, which might result in personality clashes and the need for greater tutor intervention.

Self-selecting groups requires that the students organise themselves into groups. This enables friends to work together and may ensure more harmonious groups. However, it may produce homogenous groups with like-minded people working together who all have similar ideas and opinions. Diverse groups allow for broader discussion and expose students to different perspectives and negotiation styles. Students who may be a little aloof, and not have a set group of friends in the class, may find themselves isolated if groups are to self-select. Once a tutor is familiar with a class, he/she may wish to allocate groups so as to ensure a range of abilities, skills and experiences in each group.

Managing group dynamics

As you work with groups you will be able to identify how well the group is gelling.

Who is leading?

Who is excluded? Why?
How can this be dealt with?
Is there a difficult group member? How is he/she being difficult?
Can the group members take control of the situation?
When is it necessary or appropriate for the tutor to get involved with a group disagreement?

Managing Group Work

Before setting a group task, the tutor needs to decide:

The purpose of the exercise

The desired outcomes
How many groups to form
The optimum group size for the exercise
The best way of breaking the larger group into smaller groups
How long the group are to work together - for the duration of the class or on an exercise for the duration of the term?
What is the time length for the activity?
Is the exercise being assessed and, if so, how are marks to be allocated?

In order to manage group exercises effectively, it is important that:

The task should be explained clearly, particularly when there may be students involved who are more accustomed to chalk and talk methodologies and unaccustomed to student participation

Students are given some advice/information on how to work and behave in groups
Groups are not too big so that everyone has a fair chance to participate
Everyone understands the importance of good group dynamics and appreciates the need to listen to each other and co-operate
Everyone understands what is expected and knows the timeframe for the assignment/discussion
Students have the necessary information/resources to discuss the topic, or work on a problem
Everyone participates equally so that the workload is shared equally
The tutor acts as a resource/support person for the group(s) and is available to discuss ideas, encourage students and assist with planning.

Suggestions for Reflection

  • How do you manage a question and answer session?
  • What techniques to you use?
  • What do you consider to be the main benefits of group work?
  • What difficulties emerge with group work? How can these be resolved?
  • What techniques do you use to form groups?
  • How do you ensure that the entire group participate actively?
  • What guidelines would you suggest for effective group work?
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