Group Dynamics

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Understand Your Role in Science Education

Group Dynamics

It is important to be aware of gender and multicultural issues when speaking in the classroom.

Promote Achievement in School

Successful programs are high quality and long-term. They start early and continue throughout the schooling of targeted groups. The emphasis in science and mathematics programs should be on enrichment rather than on remediation and should allow students the opportunity for hands-on experience. Programs should be enhanced through enlistment of universities, businesses, and the community in cooperative efforts. The enrichment process includes the understanding of the material presented as it relates to the students' lives and learning styles. You will be successful if you :

  1. Present material in the context of students' lives. Embed the information to be taught and the problems to be solved in a context familiar to the students. Once students realize how they can make immediate and practical use of what they are learning, their attention will increase and so will their comprehension and retention. Making personal connections requires that the content take account of students' cultural and ethnic diversity, and that the instructor have knowledge of and respect for it.

  2. Relate science learning to future careers and demonstrate the growing importance of mastery in these areas to employment opportunities. This is another way of demonstrating the relevancy of the subject.

  3. Be Sensitive to cultural and language differences. Children who are used to assuming responsibilities and functioning autonomously at home will learn better in a more independent situation. Students used to using a nonstandard method of communication should be allowed to learn and express themselves in that way. Of course the instructor must be willing to "translate," if necessary.

  4. Use anxiety-reducing strategies. The competitive classroom setting in anxiety producing for females and many minorities. The situation in hich everyone is raising their hands to give the one correct answer is competitive. Cooperative learning is a technique whereby students work together to discover and answer, or complete a task. The pooled knowledge and skills of the group are used to accomplish the task.

Differences of opinions are heard, individual skills are appreciated, and team building is accomplished. Larger tasks can be undertaken when the members of the team take on the appropriate sub problem for their abilities and personality. Within the group the larger task can be broken down into manageable components and these smaller tasks can more successfully be accomplished, giving the student confidence. Cooperative learning is an approach that eliminates the stress of competition and the value of conflict experienced by females and some minority students who value cooperative social interaction. Instilling in students the belief that they can succeed also helps reduce anxiety.

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Group Dynamics

The cooperative student grouping should be small and have mixed abilities. Each member can function independently to accomplish learning tasks, solve problems, and achieve a continual evolving set of goals. The task assigned and resources provided must lend themselves to independent learning with only intermittent instructor input. In order that each student in a group has an opportunity to shine within the group at one time or another, some of the lesser skilled students may be individually trained. Then those students can train the other students in the group.

You can be a part of the solution by being part of the enrichment in the science classroom. By being sensitive to the differences of the students you can be more equitable in your presentation and response to student needs. Your visit should be long remembered for the subject you bring and the role model that you portray. You will leave the students with the impression that scientists are not cold, isolated, and insensitive. This will be an impression worth remembering.

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Leave a Positive Impression

When you leave, students should have the impression that you are:

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Last Updated: April 19, 2012