To group or not to group
I am surprised to know that more and more students from my school are reading my blog. And some are even commenting now. I never anticipated that to happen. That is the reason why I identified myself. Even put my picture on the sides. hehehe Well, it happened and although I'm not complaining, as a matter of fact, I find that interesting and nice, I have to be careful about the things I write from now on.
Students reading my blog, as a matter of fact, is a blessing because I am no longer inside the classroom and there are a lot of things I believe I can still share with students. I can use this blog as a venue to say my piece. Double the blessing because I am not a good speaker anyway. Let's put it this way. I am a better writer than a speaker; a better musician than a writer; a better painter than a musician and a lot better of a dreamer than anything else combined.
Anyway, since students have been quietly reading my blog, I would like to dedicate this entry to them.
Let me talk about group work. A few weeks ago, I noticed a parent fuming mad along the corridor. When I asked her why, she said her son couldn't go home because he had to wait for his group mates to show up and be assured of a grade in their group project. However, from among a group of six or seven, only three showed up while the rest had either gone home or had to be elsewhere for "other" pressing matters without having done anything at all for the group. The task was given two weeks ago. According to the mother, the problem with group work is that sometimes, only one person does the whole work while the others are contented to have a grade without any participation at all. She was so disappointed to the point of saying that group work should be scrapped. I had to tell her that in spite of the problems posed by the exercise, group work has its own educational value. It teaches cooperation, working well with others, camaraderie, sharing resources, leadership and being good followers, resolving conflicts within the group, compromise, etc... True, a problem arises when one or more student wouldn't cooperate. Hence, I would like to focus on group work so that students in any school for that matter, may be guided accordingly.
There are several consequences of a group failing to do what it is supposed to do. Turning in a low quality output is one. At this time and age, mediocrity is a sin. With our present condition, we need to give the best efforts we can muster. Let's start that in school. Students whose works are below par need to work harder. They should learn how to work as a team.
Since I'm at it, I would suggest that a group be creative and original. Stop being copycats. If you watch the local tv stations in a particular given time, say 8 am, 12, or 5:30-6 pm and suddenly feel bored and decide to jump from one channel to the next, chances are you will end up watching the same format, practically the same, albeit with a little variation, of the same theme or concept in a different show? Channel 2 and Channel 7 noontime shows seem to have only one set of writers. And they are the networks that allegedly are competing for the number 1 slot. They are almost alike in everything. In the morning, change channels and you'll find that if one is showing the traffic situation, the other is showing the same. Exercise segment in one, change channels, exercise at the other. No wonder cable tv is gaining ground. Had the think tanks of both networks been doing their homework, we would have more choices, right? Now that is group work.
Going back to group work. The worst case that can happen is when only one person did the entire project. A group may come up with the best project in a batch but it is still a failed one when only one or even only a minority of the members actually worked on it. This is the worst because lazy people get away with it. We have several ways to guard against this. One of which is the evaluation using a rubric. Individual efforts should still be considered. However, since it is group work, a certain percentage for the output should be allocated, too. A good teacher must have followed the progress of the group but let's face it, this is not always the case. For one reason or another, there will be times when the teacher cannot do anything about it and the only consideration will be the final output. It is in this case that group work becomes detrimental to the learning process. Sure, the group could have turned in the best product but that is not the point. The point should be the learning gotten from the project. At any rate, what benefit would the student have from a grade that is undeserved? Take this to heart. Who loses from this rotten deal? The teacher who has been taken for a ride by lazy students or the students who did not learn anything? Lessons are prepared by teachers based from their knowledge and expertise. They sweat it out to prepare a good lesson for the students' benefit, put their time and effort to make their students learn. It is the duty of every learner that these efforts are put to good use. It takes two to tango. The teacher teaches so that the students learn. Don't waste everybody's time. Learn from every experience you get in school.