Saturday, April 16, 2011

Group Work

While this post pertains to business schools, it's just as true regarding high school:

Group work is largely an academic joke, a process where the weaker members of the group rely almost exclusively on the stronger, more conscientious students to carry them all to the grade they want. (Of course, the same “weak rely on the strong” dynamic prevails in real-world group work as well.) Group work serves lazy students and professors quite well — the low-performing students can relax while their peers complete the task, and the professors have fewer papers or projects to grade.

I remember very few group projects in high school, and only a couple of engineering design projects at West Point (where I remember everyone pulling his/her own weight).


socalmike said...

I think it depends on the subject. I certainly think that Language Arts, Social Science, and Foreign Language shouldn't have group work, for the reasons you've espoused. But in my engineering program, and also in some sciences, I feel group projects have value.

I have my engineers document everything they do in their journal, so there is no "riding coattails" - they all have to pull their own weight. They also have to "delegate" their efforts - no groups of three - so one person will be the "builder" and the other the "programmer", or whatever the project calls for.

But I totally agree - someone is always riding a coattail if you don't hold them accountable.

Darren said...

Notice that the personal example I recall was in engineering, and that there was no coattail effect there.

maxutils said...

The ONLY place I've had success with group work is in teaching economics -- and, it's a small part of their grade. But the discussions they have together are amazingly valuable, and serve only to contribute to the overall conclusion. Everyone still needs to know their stuff.

KauaiMark said...

The only "group work" in 30+ years of computer programming was breaking one project into individual sections assigned to individuals.

The only "group interaction" involved making the sections work together in a final product.

Group work as taught in school doesn't exist in the real world outside gov politics.

Michael said...

This has always been a pet peeve of mine, since my kids were the ones doing most of the work for the non-performers. Funny that when it comes to applying to college, it's the individual's grades, test scores and achievements that count.

maxutils said...

Bottom line -- if you talk to the students, the ones who hate it are the bright, hardworking ones. That should tell you all you need to know.

Ellen K said...

While there are benefits in learning to cooperate, as a parent I hated group projects. I knew my kids would be the ones sweating out the grade, while others in their group would be content to barely pass. All group work does is place stress on the gifted kids. It doesn't raise the average or below average students up. It just penalizes good students for being good students.