Collaborative Learning – Using Group Presentations in a High School Math Class

Jillian Adams, Rush-Henrietta Math Teacher

This past year as part of the MCC Fellows Program, I embarked on an action research study focusing on collaborative learning in my high school Math Explorations classes. I was looking for a way to make review days for tests more exciting, interactive, and beneficial to my students overall. With this thought in mind, I decided to pursue the following question: “Will using collaborative lessons in my Math Explorations classes improve students’ participation in learning, and increase their understanding of the math concepts being taught?”

I moved forward with my research by assigning the students to groups, giving them a topic (type of math problem) from one of the lessons in the unit we were covering (Basic Concepts of Algebra), and then giving them time to organize a presentation on that topic which they would be presenting to the class on our unit review day. Each student had a different role in their group and would plan and present one of the following items: 1) Introduction of the topic and definitions of any math terms, 2) Writing their type of math problem on the board and explaining the process to solve it, 3) Telling other students where this type of problem or math skill could be used in real life, or 4) Showing the other students a webpage they picked out that explains or relates to the topic.

The students were given time in the computer lab to find out more information on their topic and get ready for their presentation day. They needed to work together with their group members to make sure each person had effectively planned their part and that they were a cohesive group with the facts on their given topic. On presentation day each student got up and walked the class through their portion of the presentation, giving details that pertained to the background, solving process, application, or use of this topic on a website. After the presentations I had each student rate the peers in their group on their planning and their presentation of the topic, which I included as part of their overall grade. They were also asked to write down what they enjoyed about working in a group, as well as what could be improved.

In analyzing my action research I was able to draw from data collection methods such as student surveys (both numerical scores of their peers and written answers), previous test scores, and my reflective journal entries. There were a few hiccups along the way, but overall I was very impressed with how this turned out and that the students put forth the effort and had great results with both their planning and presentations. It was engaging to the students and made the topics more meaningful to them due to the fact that they were being taught by their peers. I found this work so successful I decided to use collaborative learning again for a formal observation at school this year by my principal, and it went even better the second time. Studies have shown that collaborative learning helps students achieve higher levels of thought and retain information longer than students who work quietly as individuals. The shared learning gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and as a result become critical thinkers. I truly saw progress in my classes through this work and I would encourage others to try it as well.  Please see my full report for additional information on this project.

 

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