"Communicative language teaching sets out to involve learners in purposeful tasks which are embedded in meaningful contexts and which reflect and rehearse language as it is used authentically in the world outside the classroom."
Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000
When reading Tricia Hedge's quote, I thought of the innate characteristics of group work in the classroom. Regardless of your viewpoint on language teaching purposes, we can't deny that language is a key element in life, and life as we know it today necessarily means living and sharing with others. Therefore, it is not hard to believe that one of the key elements in a Communicative Classroom will be PAIRWORK and/or GROUP WORK.
Some of the often given reasons for using group work in a communicative classroom, which I agree with, are that it increases opportunities for practicing the language and it enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning. Working with peers gives the students the chance of practicing the language in a more realistic interaction and allows them to develop their strategic competence, taking risks and accommodating their language to achieve communication successfully.
It is important, however, to highlight that working with groups in the classroom may have a main disadvantage reflected on behavior, students may feel that allowing group work and communicative activities are a waste of time and start misbehaving; the teacher's role, there, is to help students realize that within a group there is always somebody who should be interested in keeping the group on task as well as somebody who should be interested in maintaining interpersonal relations within the group.
Our challenge as teachers is to introduce pair and group work in our classroom, and "selling" our reasons for doing so to our students, strongly believing that they will profit from the activities and that in the end they will become BETTER COMMUNICATORS in life. Are we ready for such a challenge?
Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 2)