Saturday, April 03, 2010

Teamwork High

I'm not yet sold on the trend of working in groups as the primary pedagogical method in high schools, but this school seems to have bought into it:

This is Minarets High – the county's newest high school and a model for what public education might look like in the future.

Every student gets a laptop. Classes are focused on group projects instead of homework and lectures. After school, students and teachers text each other and use online tools to complete assignments. The library, called the media lounge, is furnished like a coffee shop with large windows and couches. The books are packed in a few rows of shelves in a corner.

In physical education class, students ride mountain bikes on nearby trails or jump over classmates in team-building exercises. When teachers go to conferences, they take students with them to help with presentations.

Read more:

I'm not convinced that students need so much to be taught how to collaborate, especially via technology. What they really need to learn, develop, and practice is focused, contemplative thought on a specific topic for more than a few minutes at a time.

While I recognize that out in the real world many jobs require people to work collaboratively, that assumes that each person has something to "bring to the table". Part of the purpose of high school is to allow students to learn so that they have something to bring to the table when they work with others. If they cannot perform specific tasks individually, what can they contribute to the group? And what about those jobs that require mostly individual work?

I also don't accept the dichotomy of "group projects" vs. "homework and lectures". There is a place for both, with "group projects" reinforcing what was learned in "homework and lectures". I'm of the belief that in education, the primary goal should be individual performance--that way, each person has something to contribute in a group project. Besides, there are plenty of opportunities at school to work collaboratively and build teamwork; not everything at school has to be taught in the classroom.

Yes, I'm talking about clubs, sports, and other programs.

Update, 4/4/10: A commenter says that the article is wrong about the "group work" focus. Be sure to read it to get an alternate perspective.


KauaiMark said...


Ellen K said...

Anyone who has had to do a professional project with a group knows that there's always one or two folks who either don't know what's going on or who are simply content to let others do all the work. That is human nature and that's not going to change. I think we need to reassert personal pride in quality work rather than allowing a few to do the work of the many. that what we are heading toward politically and that's why groupthink is being encouraged?

jcorippo said...

I helped design this school. The article is wrong on group work. We aren't sure where "group work" focus in the article comes from; everyone does individual work. Sure, we collaborate with Google Apps, but at the same level most any school would share and collaborate.

Regarding the "homework/lecture" matrix, that's incorrect, too. We have simply set up a system where teachers don't lecture for a whole period and then say "study chapter 5, there's a test on Friday" while kids are walking out the door. We do far more work and practice at school this way.

Bear in mind, last year using this system, 60% of our kids went up at least one stanine in core classes and almost 30% went up in two cores.

If kids are earnestly doing work that relates to the skills (standards) we need need to address, they must grow.