A couple of years ago I was invited to an eleven plus centre. It was a most interesting experience. The teacher stood at the front of the class and went through an eleven plus paper question by question. The children were not expected to work on their own. The very able worked at the same speed as the less able. There were more than20 children in the group. I would love to know just how many passed!
We know that the size of a group has an impact on learning. As a group gets bigger, changes are likely to occur.
The resources of the group are made bigger in terms of knowledge, experience and approaches to problem solving. We can see this clearly at a family get-together where parents, relatives and children gather to try to solve a particular eleven plus question. Auntie Mable may have been written off by the family for being too child centred and being some-one who never wants to go back to work – but she may be able to solve a very complex question by simply applying common sense.
As the group grows bigger every-one has less opportunity to use and exploit opportunities. There may be less time to think out loud. Somebody may consciously (or unconsciously) try to dominate the proceedings. Other people may not want to offer an answer in case it is wrong.
The actual eleven plus candidate may feel that he or she is no longer part of the decision making elements of answering the problem. The eleven plus pupil may feel that his or her contribution is unrecognised.
The discussion may lose its focus. Instead of concentrating on the problem some members may start to digress. (At school we called this a successful red herring!)
The differences between the people may become more marked. It may be difficult to end up with a consensus answer.
And finally, the eleven plus student may be entertained for a spell – but as the discussion meanders through many arms – then he or she may wish for everyone to get on with the next question. The candidate may become tired from too much talk.
Is one to one the best answer? For some children it must be.
Is a small group the best answer? For some children it must be.
Is a large group the best answer? For some children it must be.
Is there a royal road? For some children there must be.