As of right now I’m through two weeks of classes already – hard to believe, isn’t it?
It’s all going swimmingly, although the work hasn’t really started yet. Reading is assigned, essays delineated, groups chosen. There is a lot of group work this time around – every course I’m in requires a 15-20 minute presentation from a group of anywhere from two to eight people. This is both good and bad.
It’s good because it teaches social and collaboration skills, and it allows all the students to draw on the experience and observations of the other students in the group – this broadens knowledge and exposure, and creates potential for further learning. It’s good because instead of preparing and delivering an eight-minute speech all on my own, I am required only to deliver to the tune of two or three minutes as part of the concerted effort (and how can less stage time be a bad thing?). It’s good because it allows for social interaction among students where there is little or none in the ordinary lecture/essay format. This is especially important for an old fart like me, for whom making friends has always been something of a challenge.
It’s bad because for those group projects everyone gets the same mark regardless of input and contribution. Of course, if everyone contributes equally and well this is not an issue, but in group work freeloaders are rewarded with the benefits of the hard workers, and that, as they say, just ain’t right. It’s bad because sometimes I just prefer to be solitary, to listen, to absorb, to reproduce, to demonstrate applied knowledge, then go on my way. It’s bad, too, because as the ranking old fart in any group, it often behooves me to be an initiator, if not exactly a leader, and sometimes I just don’t see myself in that role.
All this being said, on reflection it really is a microcosm of real life, isn’t it? There’s group work in most offices – collaboration, breaking out into teams for specific purposes. There are leaders and followers, doers, undoers, givers and takers. There are those in the real world, too, who attend when the rewards are dispersed, but do very little to actually earn them. I guess the only answer for that is to ensure that they pull their weight all the way along.
So, anyway, why not? At least the group work makes school interesting, and it guarantees that something will be learned, even if it’s not exactly what the teacher intended.