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excellent discusssion for and against students’ group work on LinkedIn’s “The Teaching Professor”

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 23, 2014

For those students who hate group work Manager’s Choice

Editor, Faculty FocusTop Contributor

“I’d really rather work alone. . .” Most of us have heard that from a student (or several students) when we assign a group project, particularly one that’s worth a decent amount of the course grade. It doesn’t matter that the project is large,…

  • jasim

    jasim hussein

    Professor of Pediatrics, Consultant Pediatrician at Babylon Medical College, Iraq

    It may be related to shyness, introversion , improper self confidence, phobia or due to little knowlege

    David L.Ron K. and 2 others like this

  • Steve WethingtonSteve

    Steve Wethington

    College Professor at College of the Mainland

    we train students to join the workforce. Team work is key. None of this lone wolf , inner child stuff. You cant be a nurse, a plant worker, someone in business unless you can teamwork……….

    if you want to be an academic , even then you have others in your department , you teach . whether they are shy, introverted makes no difference. We humans are a pack type animal.

    You can make all the esoteric analogies you want. But in this world , its a we world not an I one.

    Art L.David L. like this

  • Alan Dobrowolski, MBAAlan

    Alan Dobrowolski, MBA

    Professor (Adjunct) at Manchester Community College

    With the demographics that I work with, I do not feel that group projects are particularly productive. One thing we must always be sure of before assigning a group project is whether or not doing so supports the objective of the course. That said, a mandatory group project might not be appropriate, say, in an accounting class, where group dynamics and playing well with others is not particularly a focus of the class objective.

    For business classes, I give the option of group vs. individual project – but make it clear that the expectation multiplies by the number of group members. Our students work different schedules and all commute to class – the logistics alone can be overwhelming. Who’s going to watch the kids and the dogs?

    Historically, group projects can be particularly overly stressful for students requiring accommodations and/or are living with physiological or mental health issues. When a group project is assigned, it is incumbent upon the instructor to ensure any such issues are addressed.

    Assigning a group project now also makes us responsible for ensuring that the group functions appropriately, and the role of each group member is clearly identified so that you are able to assess performance. “Free riders” are an inherent reality in group projects, and as with public goods, someone still has to pay the price. (I have used a group project in an economics class – with a student “plant” to demonstrate the “free rider.”)

    Overall, I feel that group projects should only be assigned in a controlled structured environment, otherwise someone will always feel left out. I use scheduled group projects only in classes where doing so meets a course objective, as I feel this is fairest to all of the students.

    Grace T.Shagufta Tahir M. and 5 others like this

  • Brian R MurphyBrian R

    Brian R Murphy

    Professor of Fisheries Science at Virginia Tech

    No doubt the ‘lone wolf’ phenomenon is real, and we as educators have created it. Our educational system has reinforced to students that individual performance is supreme, and that is how they have generally been judged. Students have spent years polishing their capabilities to excel individually, and then suddenly we are saying that they need to not only work effectively in teams, but also figure out how to push team efforts to an excellent level so that their individual grade does not suffer due to below-average performance by other team members. So, first we need to be more consistent in our message(s) to students. We should be talking about critical professional skills (higher-level thinking, problem solving, communication, and teamwork) from the time they enter our university. And our curricula and courses should be designed to help them develop these skills. In the meantime, we should do all that we can to help them be successful in their new and unfamiliar teamwork roles. One way I have tried to reduce surprises and conflicts is to require student teams to develop a team charter before they commence any work. A charter lays out goals and methods for the team, along with expectations for team members and agreement on how conflicts will be resolved. I have students start at this link to learn about the benefits and structure of team charters: http://www.clarosgroup.com/jumpstart.pdf.

    Shagufta Tahir M.Alan D. and 5 others like this

  • Grace Turner Ph.D.Grace

    Grace Turner Ph.D.

    Founder, Clavester University College Ltd; Clicking Connections; Oh Gracie! Sorrel jelly, wine and short stories

    I find that getting students ready for team work is the way to go:

    What it is

    What is expected

    Roles of each member

    Employability factors from the task other than a grade (ie what skills they will learn to transfer to the working world as supervisors or workers)

    Fun

    Social benefits and the like

    I use it often with all my groups as one of the objectives of the courses I write or deliver.

    Dr Turner

    David L.Stephen W. L. and 2 others like this

  • Darrin Thomas, PhDDarrin

    Darrin Thomas, PhD

    Adjunct Lecturer at Asia Pacific International University

    I was one of those students who hated group work. The reason for me at least was because the group would slow me down. Often when people work in groups accountability goes down and people go off task. I remember being in groups were nobody wanted to do the assignment but wanted to socialize. In the real world this is not as bad because people are being employed and paid money so they have some motivation to work together.
    Sadly, there are times were students need to work in groups. However, if I have a student who insist on working alone I tried to make accommodations for them because that student used to be me.

    Ron K.Grace T. like this

  • Shagufta Tahir

    Shagufta Tahir Mufti

    Associate Professor , Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at King Abdulaziz University

    Top Contributor

    I agree with Alan that team projects should be chosen only if they are required to support the ILOs.However although the course may or may not require the team project we should keep in mind that all graduates are sooner or latter going to work outside the institution with people whom they dont know at all.If they are not encouraged to deal with their own familiar peers (at a relatively more flexible stage of their lives) I dont see how we can expect them to demonstrate standard collegiality later on in their careers.So I think team projects do groom our students with culture, grace , dignity and respect above all.It fosters life long professional relationships in which the team members become invested in each others ” development and well-being”

    Yes! a serious challenge to team project is that of ” free riders” because they can potentially annoy and de- motivate delligent students.In my experience there has always been a note of caution in using “team projects ” since team’s performance is difficult to implement which I suppose is about ” performance mangement”.

    This can be addressed by choosing the right design for the project that should be designed in a way that individual efforts are observable and measurable keeping the number of students to small.There are different models of team projects .I think “additive tasks where the individual inputs are added together so that the group productivity is determined by the individual contributions of all group members” are the best .The monitoring can be done by the direct supervision of the facilitator or by peers. We may also indirectly stress the potential for reputational consequences for poor individual effort that may work into motivating their engagement next time.
    Team composition is an important determinant of team performance. Allowing teams to form autonomously with like-minded individuals who have self-selected into the team knowing who they will be working with are likely to perform better.But as an educator I have experienced that learning outcomes are better met with heterogeneity within the team.
    Other way of engaging ” free riders” into teams is by using a mechanism to make the P & P well known to all students at the begining and by continuous monitoring of effort so that at the end they could share in a reward only if there is substantial evidence that they have worked hard enough to deserve it.

    Ron K. likes this

  • Mary BissonMary

    Mary Bisson

    professor at University at Buffalo

    1. complicated schedules. I generate groups with catme.org, which will take into account parameters that you determine (schedules, grades, etc.), allowing you to say what should and should not match, and how important it is, in order to come up with groups. I often modify the groups based on what I know of the individuals, but the main thing they help with is sorting the schedules. There is a catme users group on Linked In.
    2. loafers. When I grade a group project, 1/3 of the grade is the overall project (and each member of the group gets the same grade), 1/3 is for the individuals’ performance (in presentation, answering questions, etc.) and 1/3 of the grade is peer grades. Every student grades the other members of the group. My assessment of the students’ contrubutions, and their peers’ assessment, is usually very close, but being allowed to grade their co-workers gives the student a little bit of feeling of input that helps to deal with the feeling of unfairness in being burdened with an uncooperative group member.

    Frances T.Grace T. and 5 others like this

  • Steve WethingtonSteve

    Steve Wethington

    College Professor at College of the Mainland

    my group projects , except for one, are all where i can observe.

    that being said i hear every semester the “i work better alone or it’s not fair to grade me with a group”

    inevitably i ask them what “field” they are going into? we don’t need sole workers in the fields we ready them for.

    1. the entire group gets the same grade.
    2. all the groups , usually 4 or 5 of 4 or 5 students each, grade each other by student and by group.
    3. everyone has same instructions……build a model for the physical folks, make an oral presentation ,3 to 5 minutes each student, in front of entire class and me, and bring it all together with a written report on the subject of a minimum of 20 pages for a C grade.

    One of our Profs adds this little tidbit……..if after 2 weeks into the 5 week assignment, the team wants to remove someone for lack of commitment or participation, they can vote them off the team.

    BUT they all have to put that in writing AND say why……….AND SIGN IT

    the tossed student can then do the entire project all by themselves………BUT they lose one grade. so from an A to a B for example. WHY? it’s a team project and they know it ahead of time……

    this isn’t Burger King and NO you can’t have everything YOUR own way in work either….

    the other students are harsher graders then i usually turn out to be to….

    David L.Grace T. and 2 others like this

  • Stephen W. LambertStephen W.

    Stephen W. Lambert

    Nonprofit & Community Leader, Educator, Researcher

    I love and concur with Grace’s comments above!

    David L. likes this

  • Robin LaukhufRobin

    Robin Laukhuf

    P-T Faculty at Howard Community College

    I have to admit I never liked team projects at first. I would be one that would rather do it myself and on my time, but with the way the world is today that is not a good idea anymore. You have to be able to work on virtual teams. Employers want to know that students have that skill. I always have the teams fill out an evaluation that I only read on their team members.

  • David

    David Muschell

    Former Professor at Georgia College & State University

    Mary Bisson’s recognition of two flaws of group work, coordinating schedules and accounting for those who “loaf” through the project, is very real. I hated college committees for a third reason: conflicting learning styles (I’m being polite about the clashes). Some need reflection and contemplation before decision-making, others need visual prompts to facilitate understanding, and still others were more interpersonally oriented and needed to talk it over with someone, etc., etc. The notion that our society is “team” oriented is flawed. Most of our organizations are authoritarian, including the law, education, business, and the military. There is someone at the top who makes decisions–a judge, a teacher, a CEO, a general–and those below must follow. Only about 20% of us, on average, actually participate in one of the few “democratic” group activities: Juries.

    My group projects were mainly during class time, during which I broke the large group into smaller ones, conducted an activity, and had a return to the larger group for reporting results.

    Brian Murphy is right about our fostering individual success as the prime focus of our educational evaluation, yet working in groups is important. Learning to subjugate the self for a larger goal involving others is an important awareness, and those who cannot do this become outlaws…or CEOs or professors (being facetious here).

    Shagufta Tahir M.Ron K. like this

  • Rana ZEINE, MD, PhD, MBARana

    Rana ZEINE, MD, PhD, MBA

    Assistant Professor at Saint James School of Medicine

    I have observed marked improvement in group projects after providing the students with a workshop session on the Tuckman Stages of Team Development. Once they understand the causes of the Storming phase, they readily adopt the leadership strategies for moving into the Norming and Performing phases.

    Ron K.Robin L. and 3 others like this

  • Robin LaukhufRobin

    Robin Laukhuf

    P-T Faculty at Howard Community College

    Rana,
    Thanks for the resource. I will look into using that.

  • Ron

    Ron Krate

    Professor and Founder International Professors Project

    Top Contributor

    @David… Why did you not point to Wall street bankers?

  • Ron

    Ron Krate

    Professor and Founder International Professors Project

    Top Contributor

    To date, the lone wolf being more or less in a group, is more or less solvable/unsolvable— without detriment to the wolf or the group

  • David

    David Muschell

    Former Professor at Georgia College & State University

    Tuckman has fun ideas because he rhymes, but the “stage” idea can be misleading since groups don’t always necessarily progress in these phases or the phases overlap. Having taught small group communication at my college, I can say that Tuckman’s (and Jensen) ideas came out of his research in the 60′s and 70′s and have been criticized for “overreaching” when trying to formulate neat stages, but his work has been very influential. Still, consideration of the purpose of the group, its “chemistry,” and the outside pressures guiding it is important. A family discussion at Thanksgiving is very different from small groups of students asked to analyze a short story, or a Senate committee charged with examining a marriage rights bill. Whether they neatly go from Forming to Storming to Norming to Performing is questionable (Tuckman later added “Adjourning” as a fifth stage).

    And Ron, I thought I had pointed to Wall Street bankers when I mentioned outlaws.

    Ron K. likes this

  • Ron

    Ron Bridges

    Biology Professor at Pellissippi State Community College

    To David Muschell,

    You are incorrect about military decision making. While generals (and colonels and majors) do have to make snap decisions in the midst of combat, the planning for combat operations is a lot more group based than most civilians think. The book “Into the Storm’ by General Fred Franks (co-written by Tom Clancy) describes the degree of collaboration between higher and lower levels of command and between adjacent units. The military understands that the best ideas don’t always come from the top. The lower ranking leader is often closer to the action and able to provide a different perspective.

    Nanette W. likes this

  • David

    David Muschell

    Former Professor at Georgia College & State University

    You have to have extreme admiration for Frederick Franks, but saying that the military structure is not authoritarian may overlook the fact that most of the best authoritarian leaders take input from others, especially those closest to the decision making theater, before making a decision. If a judge doesn’t look at precdents, a teacher at educational psychology, or a cop at the law, we can get bad decisions. The worst authoritarian leaders ignore those below them and dictate.

  • Yaritza FerreiraYaritza

    Yaritza Ferreira

    Professor of Curriculum, Educational Management and Research at UNEFM

    I applaud Mary for raising this reflection in the group because it is a reality that we are in our teaching performance and hardly we have strategies, but Rana, Brian and Grace made ​​some interesting proposals that we can apply.

  • Ron

    Ron Krate

    Professor and Founder International Professors Project

    Top Contributor

    @David …I apologize for missing Wall Street going David.

    There many other instances of overvaluing a theory, a law or an idea, since almost no reader or student, or even a professor will check the research design and statistics and logical analysis of all such.

    Mallow’s “theory” of personalty was disproved fifty years ago(?), but as the following years rolled by, HR professionals and many other admins were attached to the theory at the hip. It was a nice contribution to use as a subjective guideline for further work, but not to assume the hierarchy postulated almost always works–and even almost perefect does not a theory make–its considered to have been disproven.

    Many people have a miserable childhood: physically and/or emotionally, and go hungry but pretty well climb the ladder toward self actualization.

  • Ron

    Ron Krate

    Professor and Founder International Professors Project

    Top Contributor

    @David …I apologize for missing Wall Street going David.
    There many other instances of overvaluing a theory, a law or an idea, since almost no reader or student, or even a professor will check the research design and statistics and logical analysis of all such. Masow’s “theory” of personalty was disproved fifty years ago(?), but as the following years rolled by, HR professionals and many other admins were attached to the theory at the hip. It was a nice contribution to use as a subjective guideline for further work, but not to assume the hierarchy postulated almost always works–and even almost perefect does not a theory make–its considered to have been disproven.

    Many people have a miserable childhood: physically and/or emotionally, and go hungry but pretty well climb the ladder toward self actualization.

  • Ron

    Ron Bridges

    Biology Professor at Pellissippi State Community College

    Yes the military is authoritarian, but Soldiers also have to work in groups. All of my military training courses were taught in the small group style. My work as a staff officer was all done within small groups. And in Gen. Franks book he explains a lot about the reflective nature of his decision making process. How he would have his staff develop multiple possible plans and then not choose one until he had a chance to reflect on it. As he stated (paraphrasing a bit from memory): he often waited until the situation developed a bit and then the best option presented itself.
    I think that it is important that students learn that group work of some time is required in all professions. Whether the group gets to make the decision or only pitch a particular plan, they stil have to work together to finish whichever job they are given.

  • Alan Dobrowolski, MBAAlan

    Alan Dobrowolski, MBA

    Professor (Adjunct) at Manchester Community College

    Not sure how the discussion digressed to military groups – or quoting Tommy Franks as a reliable source – but institutions such as the Army and Marine Corp do operate as small groups. The “basic” in basic training emphasizes the breaking down of individuality and being rebuilt to “all you can be” as part of a “group project.”

    No place for that in accounting class.

    The use of “small group” or team project instruction permeates throughout the public sector – whether military or civilian. But your added value to any group or organization remains what you contribute as an individual; first you must learn as an individual before you can effectively contribute to a group.

    Group dynamics are important, but should not affect the individual outcome if not part of the learning objectives in the curriculum. I spent little time as a staff officer in the Army and never did figure out what the group think was leading to “decisions” that were handed down – and thanks to line officers like James Blunt who think as individuals, and disobeyed orders from General Wesley Clark, that we succeed as nations.

    (probably not the best source, but an accurate summary:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/1999-Showdowns-in-Kosovo-Russia-vs-NATO-US-vs-Britain

    David L.Ron K. like this

  • Davina BrownDavina

    Davina Brown

    Professor of Psychology at Franklin Pierce University

    I use team work in classes where, as Alan mentioned above, a particular goal is enhanced. However, I never make the project worth more than 20% of the final grade because I once saw a stellar student miss out on admittance to his preferred grad school (he was admitted to another) due to one B on his transcript (from a course where the team grade was 60%).
    I also believe that equating classroom team work with the world of employment is a terrible mistake. They are just not apples to apples! The people I work with have a lot more in common with me than students in a class room have with each other; and this class room heterogeneity is at it’s worst in the freshman and sophomore years. As for the team I work with, we have identical advanced degrees in the same field. All of us competed during hiring with other applicants, yet we, not those others, got hired. The chances that our personalities would mesh well are not guaranteed, but the odds are a lot higher than randomly throwing together a group of students.
    Also regarding actual employment, there are many jobs that do not require team work, and shy people or those with Asperger’s, for example, tend to self-select and gravitate to these positions. One example is a family member who works at the American College of Surgeons in Chicago. He sits in an office all by himself editing manuscripts and may see his boss once a week. Though this is not my idea of a fun time, he loves his job.

    Rae J.David L. like this

  • Wethington

    Wethington Steve

    Assistant Professor Process Technology at College of the Mainland

    Question: if you go into a workplace right out of College , what are you?

    answer: A freshman in the workplace. A lot of book learning maybe, but damn little practical experience.

    Teamwork is a requirement for the majority of folks outside Academia. You don’t have to like the other, you sure as heck don’t have to have the same outside interests.

    But you do have to work together. The Team will have type A’s and type B’s and folks who play well with others and folks that don’t. There for sure are no guaranties, but i know of none except death and taxes anyways. There is a valid reason for teaching teamwork. It has a function in life and in the workplace.

    and i see the “Asperger’s clause too. Which just in last few months has been called into question, if it even exists. If 5 % are that way, we modify everything and NOT teach or lead the other 95%? I modify my entire class for the same percentages? (and i know you can argue whatever that % should be and miss the point)

    We do student NO service by NOT getting them out of their comfort zone in this regards.

  • David LutherDavid

    David Luther

    Professor at Cambridge College

    Top Contributor

    The so called “Lone Wolf” is of vital importance to the group.

    “It is easy to live for others, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Kip

    Kip Coggins

    Assistant Professor at Univ of Manitoba, Inner City Social Work Program

    Top Contributor

    I use group work for several classes and find that my students are apprehensive about this style UNTIL I explain that although it is “group” work they will ONLY be graded on their portion. For example, when I have the 4 groups go out to do a community assessment on the 4 sections: demographics, community characteristics, community services, and strengths and challenges, I have each student take a portion of their section and present their 4-5 page paper, as a poster presentation, in which they are quizzed about their poster and the information they gathered on the community for their particular section. Each student in each group has their section to present and defend, while at the same time they must all work together to ensure that their section is accurate! And I make sure to reinforce this grading system every class until the poster presentation, which is usually the last class before the final exam. I find that when this is explained properly, at the beginning of the class, and reinforced when the assignment is discussed, then there are fewer questions/problems. Students need to learn the importance and value of teamwork.

    Rae J.David L. like this

  • Amy Lynn HessAmy Lynn

    Amy Lynn Hess

    Associate Professor at Herzing University

    I have personally always hated group work – whether as a student or as an employee. Quite frankly, working with others lowers the quality of the work I could do on my own. Either that, or I end up doing all the work myself, anyway, because I have lazy group members. However, I also accept that I have to do it, so when required, I do it, and “we” produce a mediocre outcome. When I’m allowed to work alone, I get excited about the possibilities, get creative, excel, the product is better, and it’s delivered faster.

    I don’t blame students for hating group work. When they say they hate group work (when I DO assign it, and I DO), I tell them that hating something is no reason not to learn to do it and no reason not to do it and do it well. “For example,” I tell them, “I also really hate doing the dishes.”

    Hui L. likes this

  • Rana ZEINE, MD, PhD, MBARana

    Rana ZEINE, MD, PhD, MBA

    Assistant Professor at Saint James School of Medicine

    It can be very difficult when individual group members simply do not have any competencies relevant to the group assignment. However, working in teams in which individual members contribute their highest level of expertise or talent to the project generates outcomes that are greater than those that could be produced by a single person working alone.

    Kip C.David L. and 1 other like this

  • Wethington

    Wethington Steve

    Assistant Professor Process Technology at College of the Mainland

    and BINGO !!!!!!!!!!!!! Rana Thank you very much. That is EXACTLY why we should do teams in college.

    BTW………….rarely in 30 + years in 5 different sets of Plant experiences have i ever been asked if i wanted to join a group. I was assigned.

    I was not the lead in the group more then i was. When i was leader, i was “graded” on how the team did. The sum of the parts is most often better then just 1 part. This ” I excel when i am working alone” besides being egocentric is most often NOT true in more Industries and careers then it is.

    Steve Jobs , Bill Gates, et al might be really impressive individuals no doubt, but Apple, Goggle, Microsoft, and every top 500 company is team work oriented.

    Art L.David L. and 2 others like this

  • Michael RoachMichael

    Michael Roach

    Assistant Professor

    Here’s what I would see…the high achievers didn’t like group work because they ended up carrying the lesser achievers. The lesser achievers didn’t like group work because they were unveiled as lesser achievers.

  • Wethington

    Wethington Steve

    Assistant Professor Process Technology at College of the Mainland

    maybe, but that is the real world isn’t it? Sometimes i was the high achiever , some times not so much……….It isn’t us vs them………..it’s how do you work in teams to get the “job” or “assignment” done? and maybe more importantly how do i feel about the job i am doing?

    and with peer grading input, every one in class knows who is who just like in real world.

    I was turned down for a promotion once early on in my career field. The Boss 2 levels up said he couldn’t afford to lose me cause i was such a great member of the team……….

    Boy did i hem and haw and get bent………..then my direct boss came to me and asked me if i trusted him and his boss or not?

    i had to say yes since that was the truth………i got more of a raise and moved into a more visible spot on other teams then the fella who got promoted.

  • Kip

    Kip Coggins

    Assistant Professor at Univ of Manitoba, Inner City Social Work Program

    Top Contributor

    I agree with Rana and Wethington! I know that my wife has standards and she told me of one bad experience where she had to expel a member of her group and then explain to the prof why. After receiving a 1 page group assignment, which was due the following week, one group member choose not to submit anything until 10pm the night before the assignment was due for the 8am class. This was after repeated phone calls and emails asking for her input! So the next morning, this group member was told that her name would be removed from the next assignment, with a handwritten explanation that she had not contributed to the assignment and the prof was also given copies of the unanswered emails for the week! The funny thing, the assignment was on Humanities and covered free will. My wife told the prof that the other group members and she were using their collective “free will” and asking this student to be removed from the group. It was done, as the prof used his free will and placed her in another group — where she caused them havoc for the rest of the semester! The problem with group work stems from conflicting personalities rather than one person maybe not wanting to do “real” work to get the job done.
    But she knows that she can be hard on group members and tells them in the beginning. If you tell students that this is about teamwork and the ability to show respect for others talent, time, skill, etc, and communicate your feelings in a non-confrontational way, then group work can be amazing.
    Currently my wife is helping to mentor my 4 groups writing their portion of their class community assessment, so she is helping to reign 24 different personalities and working/writing styles so that these students individual papers can be edited into one cohesive paper. Yes, group is challenging for some, as trying to overcome the need to control everything can be exhausting.

  • Kip

    Kip Coggins

    Assistant Professor at Univ of Manitoba, Inner City Social Work Program

    Top Contributor

    Michael – maybe the “lesser achiever” did not appreciate the demeaning tone used by those who thought they were the “higher achievers.” I know that once group members start to label others, then that shows a lack of respect. While there are (many) times that group members may not contribute what they need to the group as a whole, it is up to the instructor to be made aware of this “problem” and let the students know that there is a solution to the situation of one or several members of a group not pulling their weight and doing their job to get the project done. That is why I grade on individual work within the group assignment- that way, the students still need to work together in order to ensure that the group project is well covered/presented and at the same time one member is not carrying the academic work load for the entire group. Group work is team work!

  • Susan Jaworowski, Ph.D.Susan

    Susan Jaworowski, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor and Program Director at Paralegal Program, Kapi`olani Community College

    Having the group spirit falter because one member doesn’t show up consistently can negatively impact the final project. However, in the real world for which I am preparing my students, they will run into good teammates and bad teammates, and they will need to produce the best work they can, despite any slackers. This is my strategy.

    I give only one group project as semester (and not in each course) in recognition of the difficulty that students have in collaborating with each other in a non-residential community college setting where 75% of the students work. I assign a maximum of three people per team and I give them a description of the three roles that are important on this team – the coordinator, the scribe, and the document preparer – and each team gets to decide who gets which role. This gives them a structure right from the start and helps manage expectations.

    In addition to the rubric for the project, I also provide them, right from the start, with a team member rubric that allows them to rate their team members as participating at a 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20% or 0 level. I tell the students that if one of their members is slacking, that they will have to pitch in and do the work so that they produce a quality product, but that their teamwork multiplier will be applied to their colleague (so that if the team product receives 25 points, the two dedicated members get 100% of that, or the full 25 points, while a somewhat less productive member could get an 80% rating and thus earn only 20 points, or a real slacker get 40%, or 10 points). I reserve the right to make the final judgment in case of conflict.

    So each student knows that they cannot coast with penalty – the individual grade they get will be adjusted according to their peers’ perception of them. So far, I have not had many team member downgrades, and no challenges to a group’s decision to downgrade the contributions of one of its members.

    Robin L. likes this

  • Robin LaukhufRobin

    Robin Laukhuf

    P-T Faculty at Howard Community College

    I agree that it helps to reinforce that they will be evaluated privately to me from their group members. I guess there will never be a perfect situation in teamwork; but when it works the members of the team can learn from it. The real world workplace will have obstacles along the way and the more practice the better.

    I have had students say well if I was working in the workplace with this team I would quit. I try to explain to students that is not always an option. Working with team members is here to stay.

    David L. likes this

  • Alan Dobrowolski, MBAAlan

    Alan Dobrowolski, MBA

    Professor (Adjunct) at Manchester Community College

    In my function as an employment counselor, I would never consider recommending a customer take a position or place a client in a job where they are not comfortable. There is a job out there for everyone, that they will enjoy as part of their own fulfillment. If someone is uncomfortable with group work, we would not attempt to place someone in such a position, that could very well be paramount to failure.

    Working with team members, as an overpowering concept, is overrated. That goes to the current warm fuzzy that people are happier if they socialize with the people they work with. Another not so bright idea – effectively, it breaks the workplace into age groups. Let’s face it – the years I worked as a ski instructor, my “peers” (and I do hate that term) were almost young enough to be my grandchildren. Not only did we not socialize outside of work, but a lot of folks probably would ave thought it was creepy for me to be hanging around with teenage boys and girls!

    While at work, we may have to suffer participating with others for a project, there are usually some major differences than in the classroom. Most likely, the team has been chosen because of the unique skills they bring to the project. Their will be a designated arbitrator or team leader, and it is not just a random group of people who may or may not ave similar goals. Although we mean well in academia, are we really satisfying the need for any particular skills or are we blindly following our own “intuition.”

    Having been to faculty and staff meetings that may take weeks just to come up with a mission statement, one must question whether or not we are helping or hurting students by having them participate in our personal version of group dynamics. I don’t teach HVAC – I leave that to the experts. Same with group dynamics – let’s have the black belts (re: General Electric) take the lead. Better yet – maybe we should send faculty to Six Sigma Certification. www.ge.com/sixsigma/SixSigma.pdf

    Amy Lynn H. likes this

  • Dr.Maj. Kappagomtula CLDr.Maj. Kappagomtula

    Dr.Maj. Kappagomtula CL

    Professor at VIT University

    The root cause for all maladies in executing any large sized projects in any Country lies in this very basic ‘hatred’ to get associated with group tasks or assignments by the students. It may sound strange, but it is true through empirical proof. The very fact that Chinese are very successful in their ventures, be it the Olympics or in delivering mega projects, with a spectacular finish are all linked into their cultural inheritance to consider themselves as a part and parcel of a large family at all times and in all places. The elements of Guanxi (establishing personal rapport with one another), the Mianzhi phenomenon (influence of Face), and their indomitable ethnographic bonding (‘minzhu de jing mi jie he) all play predominant roles in their work environment. In contrast to Chinese, people in other parts of the world are all influenced by their ‘self centric’ attitude and the desire to excel and compete with peers as an individual rather than as a group. Where ever there is a cohesion between the team members, as in the case of sports / games, the clear results of success can be easily discerned due to synergy creation. If the culture of group work is indoctrinated into the young minds right from their preliminary schooling days, by designing mini projects involving team participation, we as teaching fraternity can really transform our society in a great way!

    David L.Grace T. like this

  • howard doughtyhoward

    howard doughty

    professor at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology

    First, the “theory” -

    In schools, colleges and universities, students are mainly graded on their individual competence as demonstrated in examinations of one sort or another. Assessment of personal performance and individual accountability for achievement are – like it or not – endemic to the liberal tradition (broadly defined) that has been increasingly part of Western culture since the early political theories of possessive individualism articulated by Hobbes and Locke. They are also essential to Western concepts of fairness, to what’s left of the idea of a “meritocracy,” and to concepts of unfairness such as collective punishment for the bad acts of a few (never mind coercion in the interest of creating “snitches” – as in “you’ll all get a detention until you ‘rat out’ the kid who hit the teacher in the back of the head with a piece of chalk … or a snowball”).

    Group work (along with group-think and group-speak) may well be the order of the day (or the day after tomorrow) in the organizational-cum-corporate society (never mind that all members of the group are ready and willing to stab their colleagues in the back at an opportune moment and to win some sort of reward/promotion for doing so); however, we must at least acknowledge that an undiminished sense of personal responsibility and a complete dedication to teamwork are fundamentally contradictory – the potential problems this poses for employees’ mental health are enormous, if only in terms of issues of cognitive dissonance.

    Now, the practice -

    We all know (or should know) that assigned group work is mainly a farce. For example, tasks are almost never equally shared. The “smart kids” do the work and the dullards ride the coat-tails … especially if the smart kids are also easily intimidated and the dullards carry weapons. In any case, when all members of the group receive the same grade for an allegedly collaborative accomplishment, the ones who were mainly responsible for whatever success was achieved will inevitably feel resentment and the laggards will feel empowered for having “gamed the system.” Neither is a commendable result.

    But, please, don’t get me wrong. I am a tremendous supporter of working in groups … provided that the groups are self-selected. Throughout undergraduate school and at least for my first postgraduate degree, I benefited a great deal from working with colleagues-friends in informal arrangements running from organized “study groups” in preparation for examinations to extended and unstructured “seminars” that could go for hours after a class (with or without libations at a local pub). In fact, I regard these often seemingly endless chats about this or that to have been essential to whatever learning took place for me and, I think, for others as well.

    The point?

    The trick is to distinguish between authentic “education” and “job training” in the sense of practice for corporate success by mirroring the “labour process” of employment and the “learning process” of education. As with most insinuations of the “business model” into the “academic atmosphere,” the results can be at best ambiguous, often oxymoronic and mostly a sham.

    Incidentally, at a near-by university, several students were expelled for “plagiarism” in that they had gathered in a study group (online, I think) “brainstormed” about what was likely to be on the final exam, assigned responsibility for members to come up with answers to one or more questions, shared the information and – when the exam was written – got “caught” for providing almost identical word-for-word responses. So, it seems that not only the students but also the professors and the authorities above them are totally confused about what all of this means and may portend for a very uncertain future.

    Amy Lynn H. likes this

  • Amy Lynn HessAmy Lynn

    Amy Lynn Hess

    Associate Professor at Herzing University

    Self-selected groups are definitely the way to go. I have had very interesting issues, though, where after a time, no one would select a certain person for their group. That person had to wander around the room asking groups to please accept him in the group. Thank you for this wonderful post and the reminder that education is not all “job training.”

    David L. likes this

  • hassan ashourhassan

    hassan ashour

    I do like team work. It is inspiring, fun, and let you communicate with others and build life-time friendships. Sometimes, group work hold you back, but it pays off when you meet people might need your help. This might release and ignite your mental reasoning, which will make you smarter.

    Rae J.David L. like this

  • Christina HunterChristina

    Christina Hunter

    Teaching at Humber College

    anyone have any advice for students who fail because their group members plagiarize?

  • Alan Dobrowolski, MBAAlan

    Alan Dobrowolski, MBA

    Professor (Adjunct) at Manchester Community College

    Howard and I often don’t agree – but spot on this time around!

  • Steve WethingtonSteve

    Steve Wethington

    College Professor at College of the Mainland

    The fact that one uses self – selected teams might work if all were of the exactly same motivation i suppose. I have seen “hi-performance” teams before, doesn’t usually work except maybe in a research environment.

    We here select the teams. Why? Because of demographics, mixing the students up. They come to us not from the same demographic , except maybe for ivy-leaquers. We mix races, sexes, ages, family backgrounds, and the students demonstrated or even perceived abilities.

    We give them projects including hands-on, oral, written, and presentations on subjects they know little if anything about. We set a timeline and send them off. As a Prof i nudge, cajole, push a little, send in right directions for info, and educate….

    Take more time then a lecture? damn sure it does……But the outcome, oh the outcome when a team gets accomplishment that the project works!!!!

    I have even seen teams who were successful, turn around and help other student teams reach the finish line. WITHOUT ME ASKING THEM TOO!!!

    And they all Cheered and laughed and bonded thru it all……..Their eyes lite up, they hug each other, a sense of accomplishment is born showing how teamwork……..WORKS!!!!!

    Anybody ever seen a high school or college debate team win??? WOW……..

    I am not as eloquent as Howard. But i teach in a real world . :

    “The trick is to distinguish between authentic “education” and “job training” in the sense of practice for corporate success by mirroring the “labour process” of employment and the “learning process” of education. As with most insinuations of the “business model” into the “academic atmosphere,” the results can be at best ambiguous, often oxymoronic and mostly a sham.”

    Teams aren’t back stabbing, cut your throat minded or bad things. Neither is business. To even imply such when discussing what i believe we are to do as educators and mentors is ludicrous. You want to develop that side ?

    I certainly don’t. It’s always amazing to me what stops Academia from investing in what supposedly is our concerns, the students.

    Like it or not students need to go to jobs after college. Most of those jobs will NOT be academic in nature.

    I rarely got to “pick” my teams i worked on. In Academia i sure haven’t. In workforce , omg i mean jobs…….GASP….in the “real “world, the same was true.

    Doctors work together in surgery with all sorts of specialized training to ensure the outcome, a healed patient. Businesses can’t run without teamwork. The Military , far from what has been said here, may have top down leadership, but you can not fix a jet or ship or tank all by one person.

    We tell the students “you can either be an agent for change in your life……or get run over by it”

    i see a lot of the latter in this discussion.

  • Grace Turner Ph.D.Grace

    Grace Turner Ph.D.

    Founder, Clavester University College Ltd; Clicking Connections; Oh Gracie! Sorrel jelly, wine and short stories

    Re grade and plagiarism:

    All group members have a collective responsibility where a group task is concerned. One cannot say not me, but the others. The grade is to be the same in my book.

    Christina H. likes this

  • Christina HunterChristina

    Christina Hunter

    Teaching at Humber College

    yes, that’s the traditional line… any divergent suggestions or solutions to address the issue?

  • Tery

    Tery Griffin

    Assoc. Professor at Wesley College

    My students are definitely fans of forming their own groups. What I did this semester was let them pick a topic, and also tell me if there were people in class they wanted to work with. For people who had other people they specifically wanted to work with, I tried to accommodate them. For people who did not know the other students well enough to know whom they wanted to work with, I assigned them to groups by the topic they were interested in.

    I have a question for those of you who let students form their own groups, though. How do you handle that in a class of, say, 20-30, when the students don’t really know one another yet?

  • Rae JohnsonRae

    Rae Johnson

    associate professor, faculty of art at Ontario College of Art & Design

    At OCAD University in Toronto, i give my students a group assignment as their first assignment. I allow them to form their own groups and intervene when they are uncertain.
    The students produce a short performative drawing using old-school overhead projectors and drawings on acetate, creating a narrative or music to accompany the images. I video their performances and later together we review the projects and offer critique based on the predetermined criteria. The project is only worth 20% of their total grade for the course in order to factor in the coasters. The results vary from year to year.

    The project is not so much about product, although of course it is an important factor, but rather about learning to work in a group – how to organize themselves and utilize each others strengths to best advantage. Even in the arts, we are dependent on each other to form our ideas and forward them through the creation of exhibition venues for example. Often, after this project, students find peers and friendships emerge which sometimes continue long after they have graduated. In a large university setting is often hard for students to connect with one another, and let’s face it, so much learning comes from informal discussions among peers as from formal lecturing at the front of the lecture hall. And in the professional world, the discussion goes on after a degree is achieved.

    Christina H.David L. and 1 other like this

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What’s Not to ‘Like’? Rethinking Restrictive Social Media Policies

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 21, 2014

What’s Not to ‘Like’? Rethinking Restrictive Social Media Policies

http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2014/03/social-media/whats-like-time-rethink-restrictive-social-media-policies/

Posted in social media | No Comments »

Technology-orientation week: Social Media

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 21, 2014

March 24-28 – Social Media week

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cloud-based SideVibe elbows the market of Evernote and Diigo

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 20, 2014

SideVibe is a cloud-based tool similar to Evernote https://evernote.com and Diigo https://www.diigo.com, which successfully took over the bookmarking Delicious https://delicious.com/

Besides “anwhere/anytime” bookmarks, the new generation of Diigo, Evernote and SideVibe offer taking, of screen snapshot, notes, drawings etc., thus making them perfect for educational purposes

Here is a K12 teacher’s account on the use of SideVibe in class: http://datafiend.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/using-sidevibe-in-class/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

what is the apple equivalent of microsoft publisher

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 18, 2014

The Print Shop,

Swift Publisher (shareware)

 

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resources available at SCSU for lecture capture

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 18, 2014

Please have a list of free and SCSU hosted resources for lecture capturing:

  • MediaSpace (AKA Kaltura)

http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims/2013/10/31/mnscu-mediaspace-aka-kaltura/

  • Adobe Connect (please request an account from Greg Jorgensen, gsjorgensen@stcloudstate.edu, if you don’t have such)

http://media4.stcloudstate.edu

  • TechSmith’s Jing (free)

http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html

Other free, shareware and paid sources in our former IMS blog entry:

http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims/2013/10/24/whiteboard-screencasting-apps-please-enter-your-choices-and-suggestions/

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Guide on Teaching Students about The Research Process

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 17, 2014

Research Process

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Technology – “Programming and Coding week” Week: March 17 – 21

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 17, 2014

• Monday
Basics of HTML
• Tuesday
Basics of CSS and/or Java Script
• Wednesday
Basics of mobile apps programing
• Thursday
Basics of HTML5
• Friday
Basics of XML

Posted in announcement, HTML, programming languages, web editing | Tagged: | No Comments »

Education 2.0 Vs Education 3.0

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 16, 2014

some_text

Posted in digital naitives, educational technology, instructional technology, learning, online learning, teaching, technology, technology literacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Video Projects to Try With Your Students

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on March 15, 2014

Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Video Projects to Try With Your Students

http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/08/5-video-projects-to-try-with-your.html?m=1

Posted in Digital literacy, digital storytelling, educational technology, instructional technology, mobile learning, teaching, technology literacy, video, video editing | No Comments »