Friday, May 2, 2014

Summary of 30th April #eltchat, "Group Cohesion in the ELT class"

„How important is group cohesion in the ELT class? How can we best achieve it?”


As one participant expressed it: „Interesting topic...but BIG.” The 21 participants in this evening chat bravely dealt with numerous aspects of group cohesion in the ELT class.

The chat participants' comments are divided into two topics: theoretical and practical.

Theoretically speaking...

Cohesive groups learn more (according to Wikipedia, this is supported by research)
Cooperative learning -  an instructional approach which promotes cohesion
Building a sense of community and trust in the learners, a sense of building something together
Cohesion with adults, and with younger students
Group decision making, roles in groups, leadership, negotiating
Shared responsibilities, group roles and tasks
Dynamics of scapegoating in small groups
Feedback in a cohesive group is positive, constructive – not painful or demeaning
“A mistake is a gift to the class”
Cultural aspects
In the business world, team building is the concept...mostly the same as cohesion.
Business English students may be dour – can they be shaken? But some business groups are a blast – depends on the business people

Practically speaking...

Extremely mixed levels, company hierarchy, mix of students' ages, large university classes
Do learners actually want a sense of community? Sometimes they like to be individual.
Is it good to detect the 'leader' of a group and build a relationship?

  • there are really several roles in groups (artist, worker, ideas person etc.)
  • in-company adults – good to relate to the 'leader'
  • find out early who might be a problem student and win them over


  • Can you have too much collaboration and not enough competition?
  • Is competition being bred out of the classroom? Some is healthy.
  • Groups can compete with other groups
  • It disrupts cohesion if only the best are praised

Students being too similar

  • with teens it can lead to the kind of competition which is not conducive to group cohesion
  • less discussion, doesn't stretch them

Taking over an existing class
Weaker students
Teenage group too cohesive, turns against teacher, children can be cruel

Starting up
important to build cohesion early on, bad habits grow quickly
group negotiates class content for the week
start lesson with compliments, end with thank yous
write a letter for every new course
goal setting, class rules – sanctions for breaking rules
cohesion building not only a startup thing, must be ongoing

Cooperative learning activities
Name the group
Slogans, rhymes, raps
Stickers – adults love them, teens are too cool for them
Prizes, not only for right answers: for best drawing/most effort etc
Help students find things they like about each other
'Teacherless' tasks with feedback afterwards
'looking for the ideal language learner' (from the Hadfield book)

Online group cohesiveness
wikispaces classroom for writing course
email, Facebook (secret groups)
encourage them to share own lives, question and comment, create “bonds”
introduce themselves to each other via photos
Do a PLN lesson when many egotistical people in the group – they work out the benefits of group learning

Saying goodbye
finish gently, don't stop abruptly
remember good things, send thank you notes

When it comes to group cohesiveness, this chat was a winner! The atmosphere was characterized by comments like these:
Bring your food to the computer  :-)
...Can't stay away! This is addictive
Cool and grand to see you pls stay on
You're raring away there tonight :-))

Links and resources: Wikipedia entry about group cohesiveness Blog post from the SkillsYouNeed blog Marisa's blog post „Storming Out or Norming in?” Dynamics of Scapegoating in Small Groups „Remember when” padlet example of introducing each other online with photos

Classroom Dynamics, by Jill Hadfield (Resource Books for Teachers, 1992)

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