We might not be able to say the same for Science or Maths classes (which we believe also applies), but for language learning itself, group learning has a lot of benefits over the 1-1 teacher-student class format.
Teaching English, a language-learning sharing platform co-run by the British Council and the BBC, has a blog post on this. Entitled, Learning English in a group is much more effective than on a one-to-one basis, the writer gave 3 main reasons why parents should favour group over 1-1 learning.
Benefits of learning in a group
First, the writer points out the nature of our modern textbooks as opposed to olden era ones. Learning materials nowadays come with interactive and group-collaborative activities and exercises that learners can participate in and compare with their peers to learn from one another in a positive and constructive way. 1-1 lessons would subject the child, in the language learning context, to 'reading alone, writing alone, listening alone and (worse,) speaking alone, though (the) one-hour lesson (involves) entirely his and his teacher’s attention..'
Second, learning in a group encourages creativity. We all know different students think differently and have different ideas and perspectives on topics and issues. By opening up and listening to these different ideas, students get to participate in a kind of brainstorming and exchange of interesting ideas that they would contribute to better and more creative pieces of writing and other work. Of course, some parents might feel that the teacher can give these ideas. But the teacher is at least 10-15 years older than the child, is exposed to realities and situations of a different age group, and he/she would most likely be bombarding the child with what he/she knows about life and the world, which might not be what the child can relate to. Peers of a similar age group, on the other hand, can provide relevant ideas and share useful experiences in a relatable way.
Finally, students who learn in a group setting, learn how to 'support each other, monitor and facilitate.' Peer collaboration also helps them to get over shyness they may have, and develop leadership qualities in themselves, something essential in the 21st century workplace. The writer shared how he has seen 'positive changes in my students’ behaviour after having worked in a group, some of them became more open, others more helpful, third ones more confident.' His happiest moments are when he sees the 'eagerness to express his ideas' in his students' eyes, and the confidence that that child can become 'a monitor, a supporter, a facilitator and a leader.' He calls upon parents who are eager for their child to learn the language well, be able to speak it fluently, and at the same time be original and reflective, to favour group learning over 1-1.
Additionally, another English-learning centre, Myovient, also believes that: Learning in a group can take the pressure off your child. While 1-1 lessons can be 'personalized and reflect exactly what you want or need', it seems more needed only when you 'work on sensitive work-related material that you don’t want to share with a class.' Other than that, 'interacting with your classmates is highly effective for your (child's) language development.'
How our centre supports this
We at Inspiren teach Chinese, and just like English, a lot of interaction and peer support and motivation is essential and helpful in getting the student to learn the language well.
In order that attention can still be given to each individual child, the centre's policy is to keep classes within the range of 3-8 pupils.
No worries about differing needs or disruptive students
We know what you must be thinking now. What about the different learning levels/abilities of students in the class - is the teacher able to cater to all the differing needs of students? What if there are disruptive students who drag or spoil the lesson?
Myovient, an English-language learning centre, posits that:
"Mixed-level classes can help everyone learn more. The lower-level learners will be pushed more than if they were alone, and the higher-level learners can solidify their knowledge by helping others."
Finland and Norway, which have the most highly-ranked education systems in the world, do not practise streaming and as one can assume, the classrooms consist of mixed-ability students. But they perform anyway. Perhaps because the 'weaker' ones do not lose confidence, and the 'stronger' ones also learn from the 'weaker' ones, and everyone gets stronger and better.
As to the problem of disruptive students, we at Inspiren believe every child can learn, in his own, right way. Understanding the child would help teachers to be able to cater to the child's learning abilities and needs. Of course, discipline would also be met out for excessively errant behaviour.
(C) Inspiren Education. Image credit: Waterloo University website. Information credit: Teaching English, Myovient.
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