What EFL students do when you're not looking: 3 tips to get your Group Work Working

When you see a police car in the rear-view mirro, do you drive more cautiously? Do you work later when your boss is staying after hours? Researchers call this behavior “the Hawthorne Effect.” And, it affects your ESL classroom more than you think.


Think about it. Everyone behaves differently when we know we’re being watched. So the chances are when your students feel they’re getting monitored they will work harder, speak more and perform better.


So how can we make group work more productive? Here are three ways to use the Hawthorne effect to help your students put more into and get more out of your group work activities:


1.   Watch your students talk.

Some EFL teachers get too involved students' conversations. Don’t. Avoid talking, eye contact and interrupting your student’s conversations. Rather, float about the room listening to what your students have to say. Look at one group while listening to another to double your value for monitoring. Let your presence, rather than your involvement, increase their performance.

2.   Student on student monitoring.

Since you can’t monitor all your students at once, let your students do it for you. Tell them to keep track of who says what in L1 (students’ first language) during group work activates. This will keep students on their toes and focus them on speaking English. Afterward, translate some commonly used L1 phrases into English so students can use more English next time.

3.   Use phones to record.

Most students now come to class with a smart phone – a video camera and microphone in disguise. Recording their own conversations should help students raise their game. For homework, students can listen back to these and use them as a springboard to help them reflect.


Help your students get the most out of group work – use the Hawthorne Effect to inspire them to progress and give them the freedom to excel.