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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

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.

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Blogger Bugsybee said...

Tito Rolly, I have a different perspective. If I were given a choice, I would rather choose individual work because it is easier to grade but I agree with you that some activities have to be done by groups because they have to learn teamwork.

When something needs to be done by a group, the basis of a team member's grade would include a big percentage (30-40%? maybe more?) for his/her ability to work with a team, di ba? Ergo, if someone does the work alone, he fails this criterion. So if I were the teacher, he would not get the highest possible grade. He would get a grade higher by maybe 1 to 3 points than his team mates (who, of course, would all fail for doing nothing). My reason is that, if I give him the highest possible mark (a 98? 99? or 100?) for a job well done, students might find it more tempting to just junk their team mates instead of exerting extra effort to work with his team or get his teammates involved.

This is how I graded group work in my class: I asked each of the team member to grade each other and I made sure they would be able to justify that grade. Then I included these grades in my own computation of a student's grade ... example, 30% is my own evaluation of how a student worked with a team, 30% is the average grade given by all his team mates and 40% for the quality of the work submitted.

I could be wrong, of course. This is just my humble opinion based on my own experience. :)

10:10 PM  
Blogger gilbert yap tan said...

Your method works well, Rolly. In my case, since I'm handling college students and the group work requires field work, I ask each member of he group to grade the contribution of the other members to the group work (peer evaluation). The grade each one gets is the average of the group and individual ratings. So each grade is still differentiated. :-)

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Emer said...

Meron din akong problema sa group work, Tito Rolly. Sana possible na we can be given the freedom to choose our groupmates. Usually, that is not the case. Pero yun nga siguro ang essence ng teamwork --- how one can best survive in a pool of freeloaders and efficient workers. Sana lang puede laging "dream team" ang composition. Unfortunately, I'm a slave driver and often very passionate for perfection. I do not work well in a group.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Joseph D. said...

After reading this post Donald Trump's The Apprentice comes into mind

yeah, peer evaluation is the best way to go...

group work teaches basic group dynamics

random groupings teaches you that there's all kinds of people in this world (freeloader, the bossy kind), but you still have to do you part in the completion of the project)

choose your own groupings (which often are made up of close friends) on the other hand teaches you two things: you get to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your friends (you are an expert researcher, while person A is good at making visual presentations, but really suck at putting then into words, so let you other friend, person B, who was built to be a political speaker have a go at facing the panelists)

one may say that the weight of being the researcher of the group is heavier than, lets say, designing the presentation, but being in a group, tasks are not exclusively for one person; the others can contribute and help the person do their primary task. Besides if one of the persons in the group fails, the whole group may have a sucky output...

the other thing that chose you own groups teach you is you get to know who is the laziest person within your circle of friends hahaha

4:47 PM  
Blogger watson said...

Tito Rolly, I'm not saying that teamwork through group assignments is bad, but I have had the experience through all my formal studying years that only 50% or less of the members actually put in effort in completing the assignment. I'm all for individual work.

How these students can sleep through the night knowing that they earned their grades unfairly is beyond me.

6:47 PM  
Blogger ipanema said...

This is always the problem wih groupwork. Like you I talk to the whole group and ask who did what part of the project. Then explain why their marks are not the same.

Personally, I feel bored with groupwork. Sometimes, one or two members will make life hell for everyone. It is during this time that I wish I can do the project alone. I have peace of mind. :)

7:18 PM  
Blogger BatJay said...

tama ka bossing in how you assess your students.

in fact, i'd go a step ahead and define how the group work will be graded para sa simula pa lang ay clear na ang criteria sa mga parents at mga students:

1. there are points for content
2. and there should be specific points for collaboration.

if it's group work then "team work" is the main skill that should be learned.

it's a valuable lesson because once they start living life, they'll need to have skills that is learned in group work: team building, cooperation, negotiation, leadership and distribution of labor.

all of which are important to survive.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous bayi said...

"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." This is the crux of group assignments. I fully agree with your take.

In fact I would suggest a discussion of how the process may be assessed as this is the most important part of group work. This part of education integrates the students into society and teaches survival and success thought leverage on each other's strengths.

Perhaps for a start, the contribution of each member of a group should be listed but this does not automatically mean that the one who does the most work will get the highest marks. He may be offered some extra credit or he may not, depending on his contribution to the "process".

Also, I would consider a post-assignment (not post mortem please, which denotes it's a process for the dead!) discussion moderated by the teacher to better understand the efficency and effectiveness of the group's process.

11:08 PM  
Blogger auee said...

I love groupwork when the members all play their part. But I remember a time in grade school, I walked out of my team because no one wants to do anything. I wasn't afraid to fail the project, I didn't need the points. So they worked together after I left & apologised the ff morning, we stunk.

It is unfair & can be stressful to the "leader". However, I wouldn't want to scrap it. As you suggested a better way of evaluation needs to be clarified with both parents & students.

6:05 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Guys, sorry for the delayed response to your comments. As you know, school is starting this week and we are very busy with the preparations that go with it.

Bugsy Actually, we share the same perspective. I, too, prefer individual work. That is why I only give one group work in a year.

I don't give the highest grade possible when the division of labor is suspect. i can give the leader or whoever made the most number of work the higher grade but not the highest possible grade for that activity. As I said, it is the process more than the output.

gilbert Peer evaluation works, too. That is if we can be assured of the leader's objectivity.

Doc Emer I usually make them choose their own group. This way, walang sisihan. After all, in real life, you get to choose who you will be working with. I only step in when someone is being left out.

Joseph D I agree.

Watson This is not a perfect system but thinking about it, what is? Ganito na lang. Those who did not do anything did not learn a thing. Time will come that everything you learned in school becomes handy. Imagine the lost opportunity if this time comes and you don't know what to do simply because you never experienced doing it. Mangangapa ka to say the least. That way, you cheated yourself.

Ipanema Mahirap talaga especially from the point of view of the teacher. But it has to be done.

bayi point well taken. If only we have the luxury of time in our hands.

auee Interestingly, it is usually the parent/s who will have the hardest time understanding the principle behind the grade (like why would their child receive a low grade when it was juyst his/her child who did the work?) This is especially true to those whose child is running for honors.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous bayi said...

Agreed, rolly. It's always time, right? Teachers never have this luxury.

6:26 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Bayi Exactly!

12:26 AM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

hi tito rolly, teacher clocking in on this issue, although it's been ages since i was in a classroom, moreso one that advocated group work principles.

a case must be made for the kind of work that is given to groups, whether it is appropriate for a group to be doing or better done alone. i know this sounds like common sense but i have seen several projects that could have been best undertaken by individual students rather than by a group, no matter how small.

a case, too, must be made for the size of a group... and also at what point in the semester, quarter, or schoolyear this kind of project is given to the students.

as such, i would say that to handle the question of that parent in that assembly would have been trifling with a broad question with just another broad answer.

this is an issue that has many tributaries with its attendant ramifications, and can best be discussed in the proper forum, that is, among like-minded professionals, and then it is a matter of properly disseminating this to the student body and their parents over time and installments. believe me, even the most "fool-proof" approach will have its naysayers. can't please everyone, ika nga.

i simply would have said, "that question is best answered with the subject and teacher involved, and does not cover the concerns of the entire parent-student population."

6:12 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Svelte I don't know if that resonse would have worked. She framed her question in such a way that it was every parents' business.
And knowing our parents, I'm sure they wanted that question answered.

Anyway, you're right on the issues you covered. Yes, not all projects are meant to be for group work. We must know which ones would work first. How many is sufficient and what time of the year such task should be given.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

kung pilosopo akong dean or administrator, i would have waxed philosophical, ika nga, and say, "ma'am, that's life. you have the talented and bright ones trying to stamp their indelible mark of greatness on everything they do, and you will have those deadwood who will ride on the wave of opportunity to get their day in the sun." in short, ganyan talaga ang buhay.

so kung ako po sa inyo, turuan niyo anak niyong mabuhay ng maganda, magmahal ng totoo, at kung maisahan man siya, na malampasan ang kagaguhan na maaaring maranasan at masabi sa katapusan, maganda pa rin ako!

siguro kelangan lang talaga maging bakla ang mga tao para ang mga ganitong issue ay hindi nagiging masyadong siryoso.

in the bowl of eternity, this question raised by that parent will be insignificant in light of so much more there is to see in the tapestry that is her child's life.

3:55 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

svelte If only life here is that simple. We are bound by certain constraints. A lot of parents are so protective of their children. Minsan nga, gusto kong sabihin, why not let your child discover the world on his own like you probably did.

At huwag ka, the issue of grades can be very competitive sometimes. Ultimong fraction, pinaglalabanan. If only we can tell them, it's not the grades that count, really. It's what has and what will become of your child that matters.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

in the long run, wrong value rin yang natuturo sa bata kasi. you'll see these neurotic students are the weirdos in the real world out there.

can you imagine a reunion where people will celebrate... getting A's?

i mean, c'mon, get real!

i had very nerdy friends pero i found it laughable at best to reminisce how we got better grades than the rest of the batch but those kinds of memories can only take you so far in any given moment.

6:19 PM  

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