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.
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(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-10 01:59 pm (UTC)
naraht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naraht
I came across an interesting idea from Captain Awkward that might be relevant to you:

I used to try to balance the groups regarding abilities, like, spreading the really ambitious students out and also spreading the less ambitious/focused students out. Then I stopped. The ambitious students were used to carrying the load group projects. The less ambitious students were used to hiding behind other people. Now, while this is not a perfect science, I try to split them this way:

Ambitious students = all together! Let them experience the novelty of having fellow organized & assertive people working with them, and people who will challenge their ideas.

Least ambitious students = all together! They can’t hide. The project might falter, but more often, at least one of them will rise and get yon shit together.

Most introverted students = all together! They get to experience not being talked over and also break the cycle of “whatever you want to do is fine.”


I've only done a little bit of group work, in language courses that I was doing for my own fulfillment, so I'm probably not the right person to comment.

Personally I would vote for non-assessed group work, if you're going to make it mandatory – but I understand that might not be practical.
Edited Date: 2017-08-10 02:00 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-10 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Oh! I had one class where we were in a "working group" for one subject but still had our own projects to do. The idea was that we were checking in with our peers in our progress, and commenting on each other's ideas, rather than actually working together. That was okay.

I think it was the same class where we had a run of something like 6 assignments where we were told "you have to do at least one of these on your own, and at least one in a group" and at the start of each assignment the teacher would get a show of hands for who was interested in doing the group work and then assign groups. All the work was done in class time and people working individually could go to the library to work if we wanted quiet space. So group work was still mandatory, but we got to choose which assignments we did it for after hearing what they were about and so on. (I think I did my group one first to get it out of the way.)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-10 11:15 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Kaffeeklatsch)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
As others have said, in a context where grades matter (even if you're just competing against your own perfectionism), being graded on the work someone else has (or hasn't) done, is stressful. Being graded by 'your peers' when you have a history of being bullied is EXTREMELY stressful, even if the current group is not the one doing the bullying - I'm having a shoulders-around-ears moment just thinking about it.

I've had my share of 'thrown together with people but not working as a group' projects; and almost every role stinks: being a cat herder because nobody wants to even meet up; doing all of the work because no-one else wants to do anything, having all of your contributions quashed because they're not in line with what the loudest/pushiest/most dominant member(s) want to do... as learning goes, I learnt nothing useful.

The only exception is projects that need more than one person to succeed. Making a film or playing in an orchestra are group projects from the start: you CANNOT do it on your own, so you need other people. They're also projects where people have assigned roles: someone needs to operate the camera, someone needs to write a script, and while people might switch (and it would be great to do several films with different roles), the necessity to work together is baked into the assignment in a way that 'here's a large topic, present it together' is not. If something can be split up by group members ('you read this bit, I'll read that') it could just as easily have been split up by the lecturer, so what's the point of the 'group' work?

Work places have structures - a team leader, a chain of command, people you can complain to if someone is lazy/disruptive; they have onboarding procedures where one or two new people will join an established team and established procedures; throwing a number of unrelated people into the deep end with no guidance is not the same.

Long story short: if you can come up with a program to teach group working skills, that's great, but you need to budget for teaching and rewarding project management skills, and there needs to be an alternative: make group work the interesting/rewarding option, rather than a mandatory thing that people do with clenched teeth.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-11 11:49 am (UTC)
blue_mai: (Default)
From: [personal profile] blue_mai
I can see that your work-shift is going to be very interesting for me... It would be great to catch up sometime IRL because I find the words on screen quite difficult to digest (partly your original posts but mostly discussion).

I wanted to ask if you did a PGCert and if so what you thought of it? (Maybe a topic for IRL).

As for group work, I was ok with it. I don't really remember much until post-grad level, when people are a bit more keen and a bit more mature. We self-selected groups and there was obvious reason: 1. Form a practice and write a business plan (maybe 4 of us? All got same mark, we were friendly and all similar enthusiasm/ability). 2. Form a practice and do some other stuff, business plan and marketing I think. This was actually a different course from (1) but similar exercise. Ok, all same mark, less successful in that we weren't friendly, uneven effort and opinions, but it's like work, so it worked. 3. Study sessions for past papers and revision, I only did this for professional exams, it was ok obviously it helped hearing people discuss answers but relied on a few keen people.

As for setting group work, we avoid it when possible. We suggest it for specific things: firstly 1:1 building projects (furniture, partitions for studio space) - usually involves moving from individual designs/suggestions to group building which we try to manage. And secondly, group site models if a few students are sharing project sites leave it to them to decide if they want to make one model together or individual, or a combination of. Even if they are self selecting, it's always unsatisfactory doing group work - they lose control of progress, are over ambitious, and they generally tend to be quite unreliable and/or have chaotic lives. For studio stuff at least we can manage who is doing what but it generally doesn't contribute to grades (just makes nicer space to work in).

Edit: just remembered third kind of group work we do quite often and i think fairly successfully - in class as a "workshop", things like mapping a project site by questions they ask each other, and then drawing (quick sketching/notes, not "nice" drawing), so it is like drawing a conversation about a place. It's better in pairs or 3s, more than that someone will sit back or wander off or they just chat and don't work. There's no prep and nothing to do after the class and the results look good.
Edited Date: 2017-08-11 11:57 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-11 04:07 pm (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
I think the only way to make it work that I've seen is to have a teacher observing every single group, so that you get rated on what you actually do and bullying gets spotted. You need a much better teacher:student ratio than normal.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-13 07:51 pm (UTC)
solitarywalker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] solitarywalker
In my own experience, group work is helpful and worthwhile at University-level, prior to that it is not.

The students' attitude (HS and earlier) is that as long as one person understands the material, that's adequate for them all to get a good grade, and socializing takes priority over working. At a University level, everyone wants everyone to understand the material, they work together to figure it out, and (crucually) if one person understands, s/he teaches the others rather than just doing the work. Younger students don't seem willing to teach/learn from each other.
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