If you ask most gifted students if they like working in groups, their response tends to be pretty negative. The Gifted Guru recently posted an article about all of the things teachers at traditional schools do during group work that makes it particularly challenging for gifted students. We are very cognizant of the ways that group work challenges highly capable learners, some of whom have twice exceptionality.
We started this round of group work with a team building problem solving activity. Then, we reflected. What inhibited a successful experience and what behaviors encouraged success? The students generated some terrific lists.
They focused on positive communication vs. negative communication, feeling "heard," and listening to diverse strategies before deciding how to proceed.
Now that they are working on the project at hand, emotions sometimes run high. Students are very invested in the work that they are doing, and they want to do thoughtful and thorough jobs, just not always in the same ways. This week, I have seen middle schoolers stretch their limits to be patient with one another, to clearly articulate problems they are encountering with group dynamics, and to admit when working together is challenging. They are building resiliency for group work and reflecting on the process thoughtfully.
Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? The research would resoundingly say yes. The skills the middle schoolers are learning about how to work together --"soft skills"--are exactly the types of skills more likely to make them successful in their future careers.