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ABC of INQUIRY - Homogenous grouping


ABC of INQUIRY – HOMOGENOUS GROUPING  ‘I looked at the horses and wondered how long it would be before they would be swept away and replaced with a McDonalds or television. And whether the Indian genius was strong enough to resist the homogenising and stupefying principle which has come to dominate the modern world, drowning us in inanity and stifling the desire to travel or investigate or criticise because everywhere will be the same – a global village of the dead.’ ‘Desert Places’ by Robyn Davidson


HOMOGENOUS:  Same same…

Homogenous grouping is based in similarities or likenesses. It is most often seen or used for levelled work or learning engagements. Like all teaching practices it has its time and place and when used in a balanced way can be useful for short term interventions or guided teaching.

Homogenous groupings can also be created by students themselves and can be based on 
  • Thinking Styles
  • Working Habits 
  • Interests and Attitudes 
  • IASKU groupings
See the last post on heterogenous groupings for more about these student-formed groups. In heterogenous groupings, the learners are required to form groups on criteria where there is a mix of preferred working habits, thinking styles or interests and attitudes. If homogenous grouping is used, learners will form groups based on similarities of preferences rather than differences.
With the IASKU grouping, the learner can form groups based on the different elements of the IASKU model. So one group could investigate or have a focused learning task on the Interests(real-lifeconnections related to the topic of learning), another could do a focused learning task connected to the attitudes related to the topic of learning, a third could do the skills, a fourth the topic facts and the fifth group could look at theconceptual understandings. Once each group has completed a learning task related to their focus element, the groups could be reshuffled to form a heterogenous group that contains one person from each element, thus forming five IASKU groups, who can combine ideas in a jigsaw like way to create a new synthesise bigger deeper picture of the topic. With each persons in the IASKU group teaching others about their given area.
Homogenous grouping that is learner-formed, can often work very well and still contain elements of heterogenous levelling of understanding. The need for micromanagement is often reduced because learners have shared similarities. Though as with any grouping, an awareness,  careful thought and support must be given to the power structures that will form during group work and learners will need support to name, describe and manage the impacts of this dynamic onselfand others around them.
The critical thing about supportinglearner agency in any grouping,homogenous or heterogenous,is that the learners help create, define and reflect on the criteria that will guide the way groups are formed. 
Some questions to start with could include
  • What is the purpose of the grouping?
  • What work will be required of the groups?
  • How long will people have to work in these groups?
  • What role will assessment play in the group work andwill it be a group mark or indidiviadual mark?
  • How will members have a say on how the group works together? Solve problems together? 
  • Who will act as the mediator should problemsarise?
  • Does all work have to be done in the facetoface group?
  • How will differences in approaches and ideas be negotiated and valued?
  • What roles are people required to undertake in the group work?
  • How will people be supported to renegotiate group expectations if the need arises?
Another thing to remember is if you as a teacher are going to commit to letting students form the groups, make visible any non-negotiable elements,expectations or limits to who can be in certain groups.  Being coerced or tricked into thinking you have a say when there is an invisible but felt agenda or requirement to limit choices is not useful and only encourages learners to see trickery as an option for themselves as well. It also provides a fertile breeding ground for cynicism. Having limits or setting boundaries is a real-life experience that all people come across, making these limits and  boundaries clear is an importantthing to do when supporting student agency. The key is making visible and sharing why the limits and boundaries might exist.

*BCW will now use ‘They, their — themself’ as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in all subsequent material generated on our website.

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