Group work in school isn’t ‘real world’

On “Ask a Manager,” Alison Green responds to someone who’s starting a business graduate program. Administrators say there will be lots of group work “just like the real business world!” He’s dreading it.

Group work in school is really, really different than working on a group project at work,” Green responds.

. . . at work you have totally different types of accountability. If someone is slacking off and not pulling their weight, you have recourse — you can talk to their boss and there’s the specter of consequences.

. . . In school, everyone working on a project is usually bringing similar skills and background to the project. At work, group projects are often made up of people with very different skill sets, because that’s the point of bringing them together to each handle different parts of the project.

And at work, there’s typically someone in the group who’s charge of the overall project and who has the power to make decisions and hold people accountable — whereas school group work often relies on consensus.

In school,  “group projects are often chaotic and imbalanced and frequently disliked,” writes Green. And not without reason.

‘Thinking like a scientist’ — without facts

Memorizing is out, thinking like a scientist is in, thanks to Michigan’s proposed new science standards, reports Lori Higgins in the Detroit Free Press. 

Instead of “memorizing the ins and outs of life cycles, photosynthesis and matter,” Michigan students will “ask questions, investigate, analyze data, develop evidence and defend their conclusions,” writes Higgins. “In short, they’re going to have to think, act and learn like scientists.

What does this mean? Projects.

“There’s a lot more hands-on activities, a lot more getting your hands dirty, trying things out, taking the core ideas and scientific and engineering practices and putting them together,” said Brian Peterson, a fifth-grade teacher at Musson Elementary in Rochester Community Schools.

Take a popular balloon rocket experiment, he said. Nowadays a teacher might give students the basic materials (a balloon, string, straw and tape), then step-by-step instructions. Under the new method, a teacher might provide kids with different sizes of balloons, different lengths of straws, and different materials for string, then turn them loose.

The kids design their own balloon rocket — then defend why they made the material and size choices they did.

“Scientists think like scientist because THEY #$%@! KNOW SCIENCE!,” writes Robert Pondiscio on Facebook.

This isn’t new. In The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill promised Iowans their sons would learn to play music via the “think system.”

7 education myths

Seven Myths about Education, a “short, pungent e-book” by British schoolteacher Daisy Christodoulou, is a 
, writes E.D. Hirsch, Jr. on Core Knowledge Blog. Both the British and American educational systems “are being hindered by a slogan-monopoly of high-sounding ideas — brilliantly deconstructed in this book,” writes Hirsch.

The seven myths — not unions, low teacher quality or government dictates — are the real problem, Christodoulou argues.

. . . potentially effective teachers have been made ineffective because they are dutifully following the ideas instilled in them by their training institutes. These colleges of education have not only perpetuated wrong ideas about skills and knowledge, but in their scorn for “mere facts” have also deprived these potentially good teachers of the knowledge they need to be effective teachers of subject matter.

After training as a teacher, teaching for three years, attending numerous in-service training days and following educational policy closely, Christodoulou had no idea she “could be using hugely more effective methods” than those she’d been taught. “I would spend entire lessons quietly observing my pupils chatting away in groups about complete misconceptions and I would think that the problem in the lesson was that I had been too prescriptive,” she writes.

Her seven myths:

1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

No Child Left Behind failed because “American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge,” writes Hirsch. They wasted time on “strategies” for test taking.

Hirsch fears Common Core State Standards, which he supports, will fail too if teachers are “compelled to engage in the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like ‘text complexity’ and ‘reading strategies’.”

Role Reversal

In Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, Mark Barnes urges middle and high school teachers to adopt a “Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE).” That means replacing homework, worksheets and tests with “student-driven, yearlong projects” and replacing grades with “narrative feedback.”


Where does the time go?

Wasting Time in School is seeking examples of time-consuming, learning lite assignments.

For example, a Houston parent thinks memorizing a rap about pronouns is a waste of time for gifted eighth-graders who’ve mastered pronouns in elementary school.

Sit down learn it,
you don’t need a permit.
Memorize it, do it now:
Pronouns take the place of nouns.

The SUBJECT list—
It’s nothing new:
IT, WE, THEY, and WHO.

And it goes on. And on.

Some 80 percent of elementary teachers are women, notes the blogger.

Imagine that 80+ percent of elementary teachers were male, and that they were constantly assigning girls to design football plays or battle plans for assignments putatively related to math or social studies. Would no one raise the complaint that men were being insensitive by assigning so many projects that most girls didn’t actually enjoy or identify with, and that were barely related to any legitimate academic objective in the first place?

I was just visiting my brother’s family in Oregon after attending our sixth wedding since May. (Yes! The wedding marathon is over!) Their girls love to sit and do arts and crafts projects. Their son wants to run, climb and destroy.

Here’s Simon and Garfunkel on time:

Hazy Shade Of Winter lyrics

Cross-dressing show was 'misunderstanding'

Third-grade boys won’t have to wear women’s clothing as a class assignment: Maude Wilkins Elementary in Maple Shade Township, New Jersey has canceled the Women’s History Month fashion show. It was a “misunderstanding,” says the superintendent.

Teacher Tonya Uibel sent home a 16-page packet with suggested fashions such as “bellbottoms, poodle skirts and cheerleader outfits” and photos of Twiggy and Madonna. She explained the assignment was mandatory.

“If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt, as there are many time periods where women wore jeans, pants and trousers. However, each child must be able to express what time period their outfit is from. Most of all, your child should have fun creating their outfit and learning about how women’s clothing has changed!”

Excluding the modern era, what are the many time periods in which women wore jeans, pants and trousers?

Creating an outfit isn’t fun for everyone. Janine Giandomenico said her son begged her not to make him dress as a woman. He was afraid of being ridiculed, which made his mother wonder why the fashion show was on the same day as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s “Day of Silence.”  Students are encouraged to remain mute “to call attention to verbal and physical abuse of gay students.”

The fashion show would have presented a challenge, even if the third-grade boys had claimed to be wearing “Rosie the Riveter jeans” or a “Hillary Clinton pantsuit.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Beth Narcia claimed boys weren’t asked to dress up as women.

There are many different time periods that had women and men dressing in pants, suits, and even sweat suits. Students were just asked to dress as a time period, not as a woman.

Dressing as a pants-wearing male in the early 21st century would have been earned an A, I assume, just like wearing a Madonna outfit from her wear-the-bra-outside period.

Instead of the fashion show, students will draw a picture of a person dressed in clothing from a specific time period as the end-of-unit project. So now the history assignment favors kids who can draw instead of kids who have mothers who can sew.

If kindergartners can analyze George Washington’s financial, class and racial values, surely third graders could learn something more substantive about women’s history than the fact that fashions change over time.