Group work

Aug. 8th, 2017 03:18 pm
liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
[personal profile] liv
I'm on a mission to redeem group work in education. I expect this to be controversial among many of my friends. So if I'm right and lots of you have terrible memories / experiences of being made to do bad group work, I invite you to comment here and tell me what was bad about it. Do you think it's just awful, or are there problems that might be fixed? I believe strongly that while it can be dire, it can also be great, or perhaps I might phrase it as, there are things that look like group work superficially but are actually great.

Because I'm on a mission this may turn into a more formal research survey at some point, but in that case I'll pose the question in a formal context with ethics and everything. Right now I'm just trying to gather some opinions and not just rely on my own ideas. Plus I am eye-deep in paperwork and I could do with some distraction, so do rant away.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-08 04:36 pm (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
A more succinct version of what I was trying to say with less detail:

In any mid to large group, there are inevitably going to be some people who are terrible to work with. Some of those people are irresponsible and try to make other people work for them; some of them are extremely disorganized and can't coordinate with others; some lack skills they've never been taught to use; some are intentionally cruel; whatever.

In a good work environment, there are mechanisms for reporting cruel or particularly irresponsible behavior, and there's time to resolve a problem situation, and people aren't really graded in most jobs the way they are in school, so a bad project doesn't have longterm negative consequences for the people who aren't the problem. Dealing with group problems is also hopefully a large part of the supervisors' job. Everyone's work schedule is usually similar, and your meetings are during work hours.

In a class environment, nobody knows each other or who those people will be, professors look at dealing with group problems as a waste of time or not their problem - and often genuinely don't HAVE the time - meeting time has to be arranged around class during people's wildly disparate schedules maybe between people who live multiple hours' drive apart, there's no way of getting rid of someone who is an obvious problem, students are graded on individual projects so bad work on one person's part because everyone else's problem, and there's somewhere between a few days and a month or two to identify and resolve problems.

Class environments just are not good environments for trying to resolve the problems associated with group work, and there are inevitably going to BE some problems, so every time you do a mandatory group project you make at least a couple of groups of students miserable and they probably end up with worse grades than was necessary. How big of a deal that is depends on the specific form of the misery and the specific grade - and whether those students are eg. going to school and living on scholarship money that's grade dependent or something - but you can't control those risk factors easily, either.

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