To group or not to group - Part II
Once again, the question of group work has come up in a parents' orientation that the school has given yesterday. As usual, it is a question of how the kids are graded and the fairness of the grading. "What if the members are lazy and only the leader or one of the members did the work alone?"
As the question was addressed to the administration and I am no longer a part of it, I deemed it prudent not to answer the query and leave it to my superiors. After all, it was a question addressed to the whole congregation and not to me. I, too, had given group work and the question could have been thrown at me. Thank God I didn't have to answer that one for my response would not have been approved by the questioning parent. But that is getting ahead of the story.
Anyway, it is so easy to say that in the case where only one person did the work, that person should be given the full credit and flunking the others. That would have appeased a fuming parent who thinks it is unfair that his/her child is the only person who did the work. But I had been thinking about it and realized something in the process which might not be a ery popular stnce especially to parents of aspiring honor students. However, as a teacher, that is not the best response for me. Allow me to explain.
A group work is given to meet certain objectives. If the only objective was to expedite the completion of the project, then, giving the person who did all the work the grade might be okay. Afterall, the only objective is getting the work done at all costs. However, this is not the case. For me, it is more of the process than the output. The reasons why we give group work is for the students to learn team work and achieve camaraderie and a have a sense of belonging. Together with this, the students learn to decide based on their options, either by circumstance or their own creation (which plan to follow, what kind of technique or whatever to use), division of labor, delegation of duties and learn how to agree to disagree.
Based on these goals, I say, the failure of one in a group is the failure of all. They have failed to do the task because they failed to meet the objectives. It is the leader's role to assign tasks to his group, delegate responsibilities and see to it that everybody does his/her job. It is the role of the members to contribute, cooperate and respond to the leader's orders.
Come checking time, it is imperative for the teacher to see what transpired during the creation process. I talk to the entire group and question them. First the leader to find out if everybody contributed. This is not as hard in my case as most of the works have been done inside the classroom. This I do, sometimes, alone with the leader to assess if he/she is telling the truth. It may be that the leader either is covering up for the members or that he/she is intimidated into submitting the truth. Next, I talk to the members and assess how the work was done. By questioning them, I tend to feel how honest they have been and if my gut feeling tells me there's something awry, I probe in deeper until I am satisfied I get the entire picture.
So, what grade do I give in case only one person worked on the project? It depends on the outcome. If the work is good, the person who worked gets the highest grade in the group and give the others a passing mark. However, they do not get the highest mark possible and I make sure that they understand why such grade was what they deserved.
I am aware that this is not foolproof, though. Hence, at best, I do not give a very high per centage on group work vis a vis individual work. Nevertheless, I have to give them the experience of working together.