Group lessons

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Group lessons are a social form of teaching.

Group lessons (1958 in the Bergstrasse school village in Seeheim-Jugenheim)


The term presented here is discussed under various terms such as cooperative learning , learning in groups, group work or group teaching in the specialist literature. Sometimes the different terms are used to denote the same situation, on the other hand they sometimes also indicate different models of this social form . In some more recent works, a clear distinction is made between traditional group lessons and new forms of cooperative learning (e.g. group puzzles , group investigation).

Meyer gives an explanation of the term for group lessons:

Group lessons are a social form of teaching in which, due to the temporary division of the class into several departments, small groups that are able to work are created, who work together on the topic set by the teacher or developed by the teacher and whose work results can be used by the class in later phases of the lesson can be.
Group work in this social form is the goal-oriented work, social interaction and linguistic communication performed by the students and the teacher.

The phase model of group teaching ( work assignment / securing understanding / group work / termination phase / evaluation phase ;) shows that group work is only a part of group teaching, but the essential one, since during this phase the behavioral patterns of the teacher and students differ most clearly from the usual frontal teaching and because the group work phase usually takes up most of the time in group teaching. This dominant importance of the group work phase could be a reason why group work and group lessons are often used synonymously in the literature, which leads to confusion and is in principle wrong.

Educational and upbringing potential

Group lessons are highly praised in theory, but rarely carried out in practice. The following educational and upbringing potentials are mentioned in the literature:

  • Promotion of self- employment, independence and personal responsibility
  • Reduction of aggression
  • Promotion of the ability to cooperate
  • Promotion of communicative competence
  • Promotion of social learning processes
  • Increase in performance

Frequency of use of group lessons

The differentiated investigation by Hage et al. (1985) is informative. Over 180 teaching hours (7th and 8th school year) at two comprehensive schools, three grammar schools and five secondary schools were observed and then analyzed from various aspects. A total of 7.43% GU could be observed, with the majority in the Hauptschule with almost 11% and the least GU at the Gymnasium with 3.44%.

Rotering-Steinberg & v. In 1986, Kügelgen published a written survey on group lessons in which teachers from various types of schools from all over Germany were asked, among other things, whether they carry out GU themselves. The evaluation of 229 questionnaires yielded the following results: 7% of the teachers carry out GU as regularly as possible, 26.2% more often, 52.4% sporadically, 5.2% not at the time of the survey, but earlier, 7.4% never and 1.8% possibly later (cf. ibid. 27). At the time of the survey, over 14% of teachers did not teach group lessons, more than half only occasionally do group lessons, and only 7% give group lessons regularly.

Use of group lessons

Whether it makes sense to use group lessons depends on the respective lesson goal. Then, Diegritz & Rosenbusch (1999) come to the conclusion that group lessons are particularly suitable when it comes to acquiring metacognitive skills or learning strategies. Teacher-controlled teaching ( direct instruction ) is particularly appropriate for school subjects with hierarchical learning objectives (such as mathematics or natural sciences) and for younger students, according to Helmke and Weinert (1997).

What is the aim of group lessons? Teachers use group lessons, among other things, because they involve the pupils more and the teacher hopes to encourage otherwise passive pupils to actively participate (Meloth & Deering, 1999). By working without constant teacher control, they also hope that students will take on responsibility (independent learning), improved social skills (including ability to work in a team, conflict management) and a higher self-esteem (Meloth & Deering, 1999). Meyer (1989, p. 245) also mentions that in group lessons the pupils can express themselves more without hesitation and develop a feeling of togetherness. Research has also shown in many cases that students without direct teacher control bring in more of their own ideas, i.e. are more creative.

Requirements for the teacher

The teacher must first ensure a precise and understandable work assignment (cf. Fürst 1996 and Nürnberger Projektgruppe 2001) and, after the assignment has been issued, ensure that it is understood . A crucial role change should take place during group work. Fürst (1996, p. 40) writes on this: “The role of the teacher during the GU is fundamentally different from that in frontal teaching (...). During conventional frontal teaching, the teacher is a dominant control center who doesactically controls, controls and evaluates all teaching processes and speaks more than all the students in the class combined. For the pupils it is the central point of reference in the lesson, through which the discussion of the learning content takes place. During the JV, however, she should rather become an observer, advisor and helper for the groups. With their withdrawal from the focus of the action, the structure of the classroom interactions changes significantly, opening up numerous opportunities to activate and promote the students. The children themselves are now the focus of communication, deal directly with the learning content and take on self-teaching functions. The teacher, on the other hand, becomes a marginal figure who only intervenes when it is absolutely necessary ”.

The Nuremberg project group (2001, pp. 56–57) gives the following tips for appropriate teacher behavior during group work . Teachers should

  • withdraw after the assignment has been issued and only observe the groups from a distance
  • don't walk around the class all the time
  • Do not disturb the groups at work and avoid unnecessary teacher interventions
  • does not solve students' problems
  • only help as much as is absolutely necessary.

In the evaluation phase , the teacher should

  • Pay attention to a change in the forms of symbolization (wall newspaper, OHP film, short lecture, role play, etc.)
  • Retrieve group results rather than individual results (i.e., do not address the group as a whole)
  • integrate and secure the results in a larger context
  • occasionally insert metacommunicative phases

(Nuremberg project group 2001, pp. 67-73).


  • H. Dann, T. Diegritz, HS Rosenbusch (ed.): Group lessons in everyday school life . Reality and opportunities. Universitätsbund Erlangen-Nürnberg eV, Erlangen 1999.
  • Carl Fürst: Design group lessons effectively. Tips for preparation, implementation and evaluation. In: Schulmagazin 5–10. Issue 4/2006, pp. 9-12.
  • Herbert Gudjons (Hrsg.): Handbuch Gruppeunterricht. Beltz, 2003.
  • Klaus Hage among others: The method repertoire of teachers. A study of everyday teaching in lower secondary level I. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1985.
  • A. Helmke, FE Weinert: Condition factors of school performance. In: FE Weinert (Hrsg.): Psychology of teaching and school. Encyclopedia of Psychology . Subject area D, Series I, Vol. 3. Hogrefe, Göttingen 1997.
  • E. Meyer, G. Meyer: Group lessons. Foundation and example. 9th edition. Schneider, Hohengehren 1996.
  • Nuremberg project group: Successful group lessons. Practical suggestions for everyday school life. Klett, Stuttgart 2007.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ H. Meyer : Teaching methods. II: Practice volume. 2nd Edition. Cornelsen Scriptor, Frankfurt 1989.
    • Nuremberg project group: Successful group lessons. Practical suggestions for everyday school life. Klett, Stuttgart 1989, p. 242.
  2. (from: Fürst, 2000, p. 79)
  3. (cf. Fürst 1996, pp. 15-25 and Nürnberger Projektgruppe 2001, pp. 11-12)
  4. (Meloth & Deering: Task talk and task awareness under different cooperative learning conditions , 1999). (see key qualifications)