T-C Greg Graham is featured in this First Person piece in EdWeek Teacher: Why I No Longer Use Groups in my Classroom. Here's a snippet:
I’ve contemplated the use of groups quite a bit, particularly as it relates to writing in the classroom. You see, "group work" is very common in my field—many writing teachers swear by it, as I did originally. The idea is to break students up into small peer groups and have them help each other along each stage of the writing process. In the beginning of the process, they bounce ideas off each other, and as their work progresses, they read one another’s writing and give feedback.
When asked to articulate my philosophy for teaching writing near the end of my time in graduate school, I wrote this:
"Though I was initially resistant to the idea, you can sign me up as one who is going to be applying collaborative learning in the classroom, using groups to create what [Mary] Belenky calls a 'connected class.' It is my hope that through their connecting and sharing with one another, the students will be more engaged in the classroom, more engaged in the writing process, and more engaged with the world in which they live."
Ah, the idealism of a new teacher. Belenky, an advocate of collaborative learning, means many things when she speaks of the connected classroom. She means teachers serving as midwives drawing out their students' thinking rather than bankers depositing knowledge into them. She also means students "constructing truth through consensus," i.e., brainstorming. While I still embrace the ideal of the teacher as midwife, I no longer believe brainstorming peer groups are an effective way to develop students’ thinking. On the contrary, peer groups often have the opposite effect.
Check out the whole thing, including the New Yorker piece, Groupthink, he references, and share your thoughts about groups and group process in the writing classroom.