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 05:11 pm (UTC)
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
From: [personal profile] hilarita
Oh you need to be so careful here!
I'm one of the set of people that loathed, detested, hated group work at school; however, I've had very little problem working in teams at work. It may be possible to arrange group work in a way that makes it more like work and less like school; unless you can manage that, I'd really steer clear.
For people with social and academic anxiety (this isn't a complete list of people hit hard by group work), it's very hard to construct group work in a way that doesn't either tank their grade or unnecessarily escalate their anxiety. Others have pointed out that it's hard to construct group work in a way that respects that people may have different ways of using their out of class time (drinking, travelling home, gaming, sleeping...), noting also that this may end up hitting traditionally excluded groups harder.
One interesting model is taken from http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/teaching/group-projects/StudentBriefing_1718.pdf - the second year computer science course in Cambridge. Reports of it are actually surprisingly positive about it. I think one thing that helps is that it's basically part of the practical assessment, which is only pass/fail - there's none of the tension between the people who want to aim for top marks, and the people who are just scraping by. (The 'ticks' mentioned in the document go onto your practical record, and provided you've acquired all the ticks, you're OK. It's meant to be that you should pretty much always pass the practical assessment.) It's designed to look as much like a real professional project as possible. It also includes a (short) code of conduct.
I also had a piece of 'group work' with the Open University. It was for the User Experience and Design course, where we had to sketch a UI for a thing, and send it off to another student to review (I got a similar piece to review), and then we had to rework (or not) our design based on the review, and explain our design choices. This worked quite well, because these formed parts of three assignments, so there was a strong incentive for you to do the review for the other person, because it was part of your own grade. Because this went to your tutor first via the VLE, if any of the criticisms were inappropriate, there was presumably the opportunity to remove the offending items. You were also reviewing against a checklist from the course notes, so the comments weren't too likely to stray off-piste, and you didn't know whose work you were reviewing, so you were less likely to get some kinds of bullying behaviour.
One place in school where group work often worked right was Drama. I suspect this was because the Drama teacher had in fact done a lot of work on learning about group dynamics and facilitation, to the extent that I could even cope with working with people who bullied me outside class. However, this involved a lot of time doing work with the teacher in the room with us, so that there was a smaller chance of bullying and slacking happening.

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