Grouping Students III: Pros and Cons of Pairwork

Having students work in pairs is a classical learning activity in the classroom. As with other activities in the classroom, working in pairs has pros and cons to it. This post explores the advantages and disadvantages of having students work in pairs.

Pros

Below are some common pros to students working in pairs

  • Students working together require less guidance from the teacher
  • When students need help, the teacher works with several students at a time instead of one
  • Promotes collaboration and cooperative learning

Students who are working together can discuss and often figure out what to do without teacher intervention. Why would any teacher want to explain something he can have the students figure out? In pairs, students can teach each other and utilize the synergy that comes from working together.

When students cannot overcome an obstacle, the teacher is there to provide support. However, instead of working with only one student, the teacher is working with two students at a time. This reduces the amount of support needed significantly because as long as one student understands what the teacher says they can help their partner to grasp the information.

Pair work promotes collaboration and cooperative learning. These are critical skills that students need to compete in the world. As they work together they develop skills for real-world collaborative and cooperative learning.

Cons

To be fair, pair work is not always the best approach. Below are some disadvantages with pair work.

  • Noisy and risk of chaos
  • Lost of direction
  • Student disdain

Working in pairs can be noisy and loud. This can lead to chaos in the classroom. It will take serious classroom management skills to get students to stay the course and complete the task.

A second point that is highly related to the first is that students can lose direction when working in pairs. It is easy for them to start to talk or do anything not related to the learning activity. This can even apply to adult learners. Keeping students focused is another skill that a teacher needs when putting students in pairs.

Lastly, some students hate working in pairs. They may prefer to work with the teacher or alone. This can also be compounded if the student does not like who they have been partnered with. To successfully overcome this requires the teacher to be aware of the relationships and even the politics of their classroom.

Conclusion

Few would argue that students need to work together. The real question is how much? Some teachers require more pair work than others. The point is that pair work should be a part of the learning experience but not the only learning experience of any classroom.

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