How to: Improve Group Responding: Numbered Heads Together
Description. Teacher questioning during whole-group instruction is a key method that instructors use to monitor student understanding of content. Ideally, instructors should use a mix of closed-response queries (i.e., limited number of correct responses) and open-response questions (i.e., wide range of acceptable answers, opinions, or judgments). Students should also be given sufficient wait-time to formulate an adequate answer, and the teacher should provide targeted performance feedback (Maheady et al., 2006). Numbered Heads Together is an instructional technique built upon peer collaboration that provides the supports and structure necessary to promote effective teacher questioning and student responding (Maheady et al., 2006). This technique can be useful for students with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD) (Hunter & Haydon, 2013).
Procedure: During whole-group instruction, Numbered Heads Together is implemented using the following steps:
- Create teams. The teacher divides the class into 4-person teams. Ideally, each team includes a mix of high, average, and low-achieving students. Students in each team assign themselves the numbers 1 through 4. (Note: If a team has only 3 members, one student takes two numbers: 3 and 4.)
- State a question. The teacher poses separate queries to the class. After each question, the instructor tells students to "put your heads together, think of the best answer you can, and make sure that everybody in your group knows that answer."
- Allow think-time. The teacher gives students 30 seconds to discuss an answer in their groups.
- Elicit student responses. The teacher randomly selects a number from 1-4 and says, "All number [1, 2, 3, or 4] students who know the answer, raise your hand." The teacher then calls on one student with hand raised and asks him or her to give the answer. The teacher next says, "How many [1, 2, 3, or 4] students think that that answer is correct? Raise your hand." [Optional: The teacher can call on additional students with hand raised to elaborate on a previous student's answer.]
- Give teacher feedback. Finally, the instructor gives feedback about the answer, e.g., verifying that it is correct, elaborating on the answer, providing corrective feedback for an incorrect response.
Tips for Use. Teachers may wish to create standing groups for Numbered Heads Together to allow for more rapid transition into student teams. Also, the instructor might post a checklist that reminds students of appropriate NHT behaviors and briefly review that checklist as a pre-correction strategy prior to moving into the NHT activity.
- Hunter, W., & Haydon, T. (2013). Examining the effectiveness of numbered heads together for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Beyond Behavior, 22(3), 40-45.
- Maheady, L., Michielli-Pendl, J., Harper, G. F., & Mallette, B. (2006). The effects of numbered heads together with and without an incentive package on the science test performance of a diverse group of sixth graders. Journal of Behavioral Education, 15(1), 25-39.