Definition: Expert groups are small student-led groups who work together to build efficacy and knowledge around specific skills, so they can be “go to” students around these skills throughout the year. We develop expert groups based on the skills students are learning.
Brief explanation from Peer Feedback in the Classroom:
Although it may be challenging to master many skills at once, it is feasible to help students develop very specific skills at a particular time, especially when working collaboratively. In this way, teachers can develop “expert groups” or students with an excellent grasp on a specific set of transferrable skills (ones that kids can learn well and share with each other once mastered in any content area). The idea isn’t a new one, it’s done during jigsaws for a single lesson or two where students read a particular part of an article or book and they are expected to share what they learned.
Jigsaws are an effective way of sharing information in a small amount of time since each person or small group is only responsible for one portion of what is needed for the learning. Then the students pool the learning as they share, practicing other skills like listening and asking questions to the experts.
Some tips to ensure successful execution of expert groups:
- Make group sizes manageable. No more than five in a group if the class is larger. Keeping groups to three or four may be preferable depending on the skills you
- Select students for groups based both on strengths and deficits. It may make sense to have a student in a group that needs to learn a particular skill while working with others who are already strong already
- Differentiate the materials you provide to students to help them prepare for the groups they will be in. Consider a couple of different resources that say the same thing but in different ways so that different learners can be sure to know what they are teaching.
- Provide models of expectations as with everything else – for younger students consider providing sample feedback for common mistakes that may occur
- Make sure that you provide enough time in class the first few times so you can observe the chemistry of the groups and make adjustments if needed. For example, if one group isn’t productive enough because they are too chatty or their personal challenges make it hard for them to work together, easy one person swaps may be necessary and can solve the problem. Consider telling the moved students that it is because you feel they would be a bigger asset to a different group. Avoid telling them it’s because they aren’t doing a good job where they are.
- Be visible on workshop days until students know what they are supposed to be doing as you will need to answer a lot of questions in the beginning to help students feel confident in what they are doing.
- Be patient and go slowly. Although you’ll be throwing kids into the mix and many may never feel as ready as they want to, it may be better to start sooner rather than later as learning on the go is more useful than trying to plan and solve possible issues before they arise.
Read more about them in Peer Feedback in the Classroom
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