Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs
From Awful Group Projects at 11D.
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Can I have an amen? Please, triple it for those projects done outside of school; scheduling and transportation are nightmares. One MS teacher told me that she used to love group projects and assigned lots of them – until her child had one and she saw all of the problems at first hand. She never assigned another one. They’re unfair, they’re huge time sinks, they’re usually of dubious academic value, they usually emphasize arts and crafts far beyond the reasonable and they positively encourage cliques and bullying. Particularly in the heterogeneous, mainstreamed classroom, they specifically disadvantage the lower-ability, the shy, the ASD kids, the ADD/ADHD and any kid who is “different”; the most socially adept or powerful are able to create classroom hell for the lower-status kids. Abolish all of them, with the possible exception of AP-level, IF all kids are at the same academic and motivation.
I’m trying to give you an Amen… but every time I try, I get so excited that 10,000 Amens come out all at once and it sounds like a drunk seal being mauled to death by telekinetically animated baby spoons.
We once told a teacher that we were struggling to find a time to meet for our group project – I played a sport and was in the band, another member played a different sport, and the remaining 2 members had after-school jobs. The reply was that high school students should not have jobs. One teacher was fond of video projects, so a couple of slacker guys who had editing equipment were really popular for those groups (we were graded on editing…back in the days when it required multiple VCRs). I also remember trying to work on a project when part of the group raided the liquor cabinet. Unlike a party, I couldn’t exactly leave, and had I gotten them in trouble I would have had not group for the next project…I hated those things.
The motivation for all these projects seems to originate from the misconceptions that educators have of teamwork in the “real world”. Teaching is among the most solitary of jobs so teachers are by far the least likely to have any experience in this realm.
As I seem to recall, in a group project (lets say 6 people) in a classroom environment, 2 people usually wind up doing 70-80% of the actual work, 2 people contribute the remaining 20-30%, and 2 people do no work at all, but all 6 persons get the same grade.
Doesn’t sound quite fair, does it?
Of course not, but “good” teachers — those who paid attention during professional development — are allegedly able to miraculously make all those little injustices just melt away.
In my experience, the split is far wider than that. The one exception was at a college senior level – and an engineering class, so everyone was a geek.
In real-world teamwork, someone is the boss, with the power to fire those who don’t carry their load.
Cranberry had a great comment on the link. “My daughter learned that dictatorship works. Democracy is associated with bad grades. Ruthless dictatorship is the only way to go. Cut the unreliable and the lazy out of anything that can’t be remedied at the last minute.”
Yup, that’s about the size of it. And also, add in a wedge for “some people really CAN ride on the coattails of others’ work.”
Almost every discussion I’ve had with fellow profs on this topic has turned to the bitterness we feel having been made to do group work – it seems there was a large number of “social engineer” teachers out there who somehow believed the slackers would straighten up and fly right if they were just put in a group with a diligent student. No, more likely the diligent student did most of the work and silently resented the slackers.
I wouldn’t say the issue is just “social engineer” teachers, although I’m sure there are lots of them who believe. Some teachers deliberately create groups where someone will do no work. My DD had a MS science teacher like that; it was a mixed class that had a few honors kids (all-honors classes were full), most regular and a few spec ed. The teacher assigned the groups and the honors kids were always given a spec ed kid who cried and threw tantrums if asked to do ANYTHING. After a semester of this, the honors kids asked for her to be reassigned, the teacher refused, one of the kids accused the teacher of not wanting to deal with her himself and the teacher agreed. He was being paid to deal with her; her classmates weren’t. He was an awful teacher, attitude and content-wise, and the projects were a waste of time. My DD and her friends just read the book.
I agree; there’s an awful lot of bitterness and resentment out there. It’s being deliberately created and fostered by a number of current educational practices.
Agreed. I never assign group projects as ms science teacher. Students work in pairs or small groups to collect data but they always write their own lab reports independently. Unfortunately some of my coworkers continue this useless practice. Personally I think they do it to reduce the amount of work to grade.
I hated group projects for all the same reasons that others have already stated (i.e., slackers getting a free ride), but believe it or not, things sometimes go the other way, too: When I was in fifth grade I was in a small group of advanced readers that had been assigned to read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (gag, I know) and then create a filmstrip on it. I got stuck with two boys who hogged the drawing of practically the entire strip, and they deigned to let me illustrate one half of a slide or some such minuscule portion of the strip. The teacher ended up giving me a poor grade for my “lack of participation,” never taking into account the fact that I had been shut out by a couple of forceful personalities. That was forty years ago, but I still remember the injustice of it all.
A pox on all group projects.
LOL – Truth.
I didn’t even look at all the ‘things’ that group projects were supposed to teach…I just saw the ‘trust no one’ and resonated.
As an introvert, I used to hate group projects. I would just rather do it myself because I know it will be done well and I am a little bit of a control freak thankyouverymuch
Thanks again for the laugh, and I look forward to a ven diagram.
The one situation where a little social engineering of assigning groups can be useful (though I still wouldn’t assign a group grade) is in something like an ESL class (or any language class with a mix of different language mostly-monolinguals). Left to their own devices, Spanish speakers, French speakers, etc, will stick with each other and not use English (or German, or Chinese, or…) as much as they should. Still good to have individual grades, but sometimes a little social engineering is useful. (And I’d only consider this for ungraded conversation practice, or at most something where it’s easy to give a fair individual grade)
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