“Work at School: Expectations and Reality”: research results

On December 17, the Laboratory of Professional Development in Education at MCU’s Institute of System Projects conducted the focus group on the topic “Work at School: Expectations and Reality” within the research on the professional deficiencies of young school teachers. 13 young subject teachers of 10 Moscow’s schools participated in the discussion. 

The preliminary survey brought up the questions of the discussion. The survey revealed that one of the most urgent teachers’ professional deficiencies is the inability to give classes in the format of group discussion. The majority of respondents answered that the group format is the most complicated for them. 72% of respondents answered that they never or very rarely organize group discussions that last more than 20 minutes.

Those results served as a basis for questions about group work in school, and researchers used them to reveal the reasons for difficulties. At the meeting, the teachers voiced the key points (in descending order of priority):

  • the major issue is to frame a question or think of an engaging task for group work;
  • inability to moderate the discussion. The discussion becomes hectic or ends up quickly as children are not aware of the topic and they run out of ideas;
  • interaction is difficult to establish in a large class (with more than 35 students);
  • it is difficult to divide the class into groups, take into account the level of their awareness and psychological compatibility;
  • discussions are excessively time-consuming.

The survey among experienced teachers revealed one more reason — only a teacher who can unfold the subject consistently and logically, can efficiently exploit the discussion format. Such formats require from teachers “confident flexibility.” 

At the same time, the researchers underline that group discussion is crucial for achieving the modern learning outcomes: critical thinking, the ability to cooperate, academic communication, creative thinking as well as subject knowledge and skills. Hence, the highlighted challenges draw focus on the development of the following abilities:

  • to initiate;
  • to moderate an academic discussion;
  • to build such formats into teaching the subject.