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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

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.

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21 Comments:

Blogger Jules said...

***sigh... so true tito rolly. the mistakes of group works in highschool will be carried till adulthood. during our 4th year med where we are assigned groups per rotation, there are really those who take shortcuts with written papers to be inserted sa chart, monitoring assignments, patient allocations, or even who will volunteer to report. it's unprofessional but it's reality. The more stressful the job, the more acute is the nanlalamang.

and also, im happy that many of your students are reading your blog. this means that you are fast becoming a vehicle of change into their present lives. I hope you'll encourage sa school mo na magblog ang mga students. It will verily hone their writing, typing and creativity skills. have a "best blog" contest... or something like that. hehehe

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true . . . I have had more than my fair share of having to do our "group work" on my own. As much as our teachers try their very best to prevent this from happening, they just can't. there will always be opportunists who will just rely on their groupmates efforts. Somehow most students have learned to accept it as a fact of life. Anyway its those who will not learn anything who will be at loss in the long-run. Every now and then though, if you're lucky, you get assigned a group that really cooperates and does their own share. :)

9:05 PM  
Blogger Yaps "The Yaps" Estagle said...

Group work will never be trashed. The science department requires students to make the Investigatory Project and, in sucession, the Demonstrative Project. The math department always have something of a group work in their sleeves to pull up deliquient students' grades. THE has to have group works. Imagine an individual cooking, serving, and cleaning dishes at a time frame of only fifty minutes? Or making a power supply all by himself? High School do need Group Works.

There are some cases wherein group works turn to dependent-on-one works. But hey, that is what High School is. Students bearing the burden learns to be self-reliant and the ones giving the weight will learn their lesson one day. I know...

10:18 PM  
Blogger Rache said...

tito rolly, being a student myself na sawang-sawa na sa group work and having been a part of good groups and bad groups, i must say that i can relate. and agree ako sa mga sinabi mo. for all its worth, working with a group is integral to human dynamics. you can learn a lot of things when you work with people although of course you need to strive for it and not leave all the work to one person. many working on a project instead of one does stimulate creativity and teaches teamwork. i just hope groups know that. groups really are a funny thing, the different kinds of interaction and the background of the members as opposed to each other are quite interesting.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Dr. Emer said...

Great post as usual, Tito Rolly! =) You touched on a VERY DELICATE subject not many teachers want to discuss but SHOULD. Let me share my own experiences.

The most difficult parts of group work are: (not necessarily in order, ok?)

- NOT everyone understands teamwork
- face it, not every member is an Albert Einstein
- "too many chefs spoil the broth"
- OFTEN, most members prefer doing what the others here term as "shortcuts"

I have been part of groupwork many times over in my student and work lives. When I was young and foolish, I was a slave driver. When I do not like the work of my groupmates, I change it totally. My mindset was --- turning over a mediocre work meant a mediocre grade to all of us, including myself. And since I don't want any bad grades gracing my transcript, I move heaven and earth (read: walang tulugan!) to cough up an exceptional material. If my former teachers knew back then that it was more of INDIVIDUAL rather than GROUP work, then they probably would have abolished the concept of teamwork a long time ago.

Now that I am more mature (nothing to do with age, of course), I have learned the value of DELEGATION, EXPERTISE, and TACT. I have learned that one lesson groupwork teaches is DISCOVERING each others' strengths and weaknesses. Since most of group member assignments are done randomly (by chance; alphabetically or by drawing lots), you always end up praying that you end up with a group with the least number of weaknesses. And even if your strange luck is indeed ending up with a group with more weaknesses than strengths, it is up to your CREATIVITY as individuals first, and FRIENDS secondly, to come up and swing the tide to your favor.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Dr. Emer said...

Great post as usual, Tito Rolly! =) You touched on a VERY DELICATE subject not many teachers want to discuss but SHOULD. Let me share my own experiences.

The most difficult parts of group work are: (not necessarily in order, ok?)

- NOT everyone understands teamwork
- face it, not every member is an Albert Einstein
- "too many chefs spoil the broth"
- OFTEN, most members prefer doing what the others here term as "shortcuts"

I have been part of groupwork many times over in my student and work lives. When I was young and foolish, I was a slave driver. When I do not like the work of my groupmates, I change it totally. My mindset was --- turning over a mediocre work meant a mediocre grade to all of us, including myself. And since I don't want any bad grades gracing my transcript, I move heaven and earth (read: walang tulugan!) to cough up an exceptional material. If my former teachers knew back then that it was more of INDIVIDUAL rather than GROUP work, then they probably would have abolished the concept of teamwork a long time ago.

Now that I am more mature (nothing to do with age, of course), I have learned the value of DELEGATION, EXPERTISE, and TACT. I have learned that one lesson groupwork teaches is DISCOVERING each others' strengths and weaknesses. Since most of group member assignments are done randomly (by chance; alphabetically or by drawing lots), you always end up praying that you end up with a group with the least number of weaknesses. And even if your strange luck is indeed ending up with a group with more weaknesses than strengths, it is up to your CREATIVITY as individuals first, and FRIENDS secondly, to come up and swing the tide to your favor.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Jet said...

Dr. Emer is right, not everybody is an Albert Einstein.

And yet, how much would it take to be an Albert Einstein? After all, it's this same guy who said that 'the only source of knowledge is experience.'

Ang swerte talaga ng mga estudyante nyo Tito Rolly... to have access to something like this and pick their mentors' mind through something that's basically considered fun. I hope your students pay heed to what you're sharing here. Long after graduation, when they're out in the world on their own, I'm pretty sure they would realize how priceless these lessons are.

Something from RW Emerson. 'Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.'

Opportunities to better oneself abound. But in a less structured setting, like in the life we live after school, sometimes it gets a trifle difficult to determine the whats and hows, let alone the whys, of the things we have to accomplish. There are no lesson plans in life. We may have our mentors still, but with what will they measure our progress, what grades will they be able to give us? The thing is most of the time, when we're set free to live our own lives, mentors cease to be in a position to measure us or our efforts. See, this is supposed to be the time when we can say, 'This is my life.' and people will have to listen to you and give you the space so required.

School is the safest place to learn because there, black is black and white is white. Life will have a lot of grays. Left is left and right is right. In life, your best bet is sometimes the middle ground. As your students advance in years, I'm pretty sure they will find out how difficult these things can get. They may find school tough now, but life is no gentler instructor.

School, or learning, is a phase we have to go through, repeatedly, throughout our lives, each lesson becoming progressively more difficult than the first. And if all the effort we give it is geared toward merely getting it over with, then we're selling ourselves short. There will come a day of reckoning and it's a pity if we find ourselves thinking, 'I should have paid attention.'

And life is not a forgetful teacher. What we fail to learn now will be taught us again at some point. I don't know about your students, but I don't really find it fun to always have to catch up.

12:07 PM  
Blogger bayibhyap said...

Group dynamics is not something that is taught as part of a school syllabus. Appropriate handling of group dynamics is a pre-requisite of a good leader. Delegation, motivation, planning, organising and other qualities that are practiced in a group situation need to be paced so that the group remains cohesive and productive. A slow or lethargic member often represents a challenge to the rest of the group.

There are situations where an individual can excel and there are others where group effort is paramount. We live in a society and no man is an island. A person who has mastered group dynamics skills will find life a breeze whereas one who does not may well turn out to be a misfit. Even if he achieves academic excellence, he may not succeed in life.

10:02 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

JulsitosYou mean there are also people in the medical academe taking shortcuts... that's scary. And i thought they're there simply because they are the studious ones. Hmm human nature, eh?

Anonymous Let's put it this way. They are cheating themselves. Just make sure that if you're in a group, you are not the only one who will make all the work. iba na yung iniisahan ka parati. Tell them bluntly that if they don't cooperate, the teacher will know about it.

Yaps Yup. YOu're right but it's also the responsibility of the teacher to know who did something and who did not do anything. What is a lesson for if the learner doesn't learn. I say, help the teacher. Tell him/her whats happening to your group.

12:28 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Rache If only every student see studying as a game that can be fun, and that includes group work, we will be having a higher passing rate. The thing is, some students view studying as a burden. When a person's attitude is like that, wala ng mangyayari.

Doc Emer Precisely because not everyone is an Albert Einstein that group dynamics become essential. The not so highly equipped can, 1. experience working on an A1 project, 2. no matter how minimal one's contribution is, he/she is still part of a whole, 3.nthe individual learns through and with his/her peers, which might be what the person needed and 4. learning about compromise

12:35 PM  
Blogger Matapoor said...

hi tito rolly. i owe you an email about you-know-what. hehe. sorry ha. late na at very busy sa work at para sa ezine. promise, mamya email kita. tanong ko lang kasi ke j yung "budget" dahil doon base ang sagot ko. hehe.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oi sir may blog ka astig!..bout the group thing ya..usually only one person does the work..but even though you tell them to do the work they just say "okay-okay gagawin ko" then when you ask them for the work they say "oops..di ko nagawa" so its like y didnt you just say you werent going to do it..and ya wqe can talk to the teachers but even if the teachers talk to the students they still dont do their part...

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello sir rolly! you probably dont know me, but i know you.... spooky? hehe!, no actually, I am just a typical student... I really wish that this entry about groupwoks can really reach people, because people really tend to take advantage of their classmates... And Its so hard to tell them without them thinking of you as the nerd you really aren't... yes, social conflicts CAN and DO get this shallow, it's really annoying. -_-


~*eRi

5:44 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Jet These are wonderful insights. While it is true that in a school set-up, black is black and white is white, this sometimes pose a problem. Basically because life isn't about black and white. There are always gray areas. How do you teach a kid about these unless they are really confronted by them? My idea of teaching and parenting for that matter is giving the learner the true picture. Mahirap di ba?

Anyway, thanks for your inputs on this post and the others. Incidentally, Jay and I were together last night. We had a good time talking about things. Good luck on your review.

10:58 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Bayi You're so right. It is because we live as a part of society that group dynamics should be part of the curriculum. More than anything else, the exercise will teach the individual to live with others. A very hard thing to do when you think you are above the rest.

11:00 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Matapoor NO problem. I'm just here :-)

11:01 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

anonymous 2 basta whatever happens, make sure you do your best. Wag mong intindihin ang mga tamad at walang patutunguhan ang mga yun. They are a teacher's nightmare talaga. Aspire to be the best always.

~eRi HIrap namang i type name mo. Anyway, I hope more students read this and take it to heart, too. With what is happening to the country, we will be needing strong and honest leaders. You all have the potential to become one someday. Start early and don't forget that at one time in your scholastic lives, we've crossed paths. Yun lang, bow! Thanks for commenting guys.

11:05 AM  
Blogger stani said...

there's also the scenario where a group member will prefer to prepare the output himself, thinking "if you want something done right, do it yourself." in this case, a group becomes a venue for that person to gain leadership skills, delegating tasks to other members then bringing their inputs together. he may have done all the visible output but he didn't do all the work.

i second your position on the two networks. channel two actually has the upper hand given that it actually has two stations, but it's certainly not putting either to good use.

ps - sorry about my last 'revealing' comment. i tried to delete it, but the delete buttons had been removed.

1:07 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Stani Yes, that's one of the benefits of group work. You get to discover potential leaders and know who the good followers are. Hindi naman pwedeng lahat leader. chaos ang kalalabasan nuon. The thing is we must learn to work as a team. Concerted efforts talaga.

About the earlier post, okay lang.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Ate Sienna said...

Unkel Rolly,

While I was reading your entry ang pumapasok sa isip ko eh "The Apprentice". I guess your students, if they have this show in the Philippines, will have an idea what successful group work brings - that cooperation and team support means you won't be going to the boardroom. (I don't know how good an example that is, pero for some reason yung show ni Donald Trump ang naiisip ko.)

In my office, every employee of the team receives an incentive bonus if the team meets their goals on projects submitted on time, minimimal down-times, etc. The president of the company focuses a lot on team building. That no success can be fully achieved if one person doesn't do his own share.

And when better to learn about teamwork but in school. I am totally for that. An additional exercise lang siguro that, I think, can make the students more aware of the value of giving their best effort to a team is if maybe, after the group presentation, each person will rate individual performances. Who was the best worker, who did more than his share, etc. So that the hard worker will also be recognized. Just like work, may performance evaluation at the end. If you work hard for the team, may salary increase ka ;)

12:43 AM  
Blogger BatJay said...

kamusta sir. eto, nasa airport na naman at papaalis na ulit sa bayang magiliw. maraming salamat nga pala sa pagkita natin nung friday. jkahit masama ang loob ko dahil na indian tayo ni sassy. hehehe. ok na rin, masaya ako at nakapag ututan dila tayo.

group work will always have the problem of participation especially if it's a large group. the team leader of course dictates the success of the participation of all the members. kung di marunong mag tulak ng leader, walang mangyayari. human nature dictates that most people would go for the easy way out.

if i were the teacher i'd mix both group and non-group. iba rin kasi ang group work kahit may mga disadvantages - it forces you to cooperate and work with people you do not have any particular connection with. this always happens in real life so it's a great start.

on the other hand, individual work trains you on independent thinking and self motivation. very useful in later life.

1:18 PM  

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MGA TURO NI TITO:
Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.


Taken by my friend Arlene Lawson in her room at Century Park Sheraton in May, 2000.
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Location: Bambang, Pasig City, Philippines

Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.


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