Saturday, June 14, 2008

1May2008 Cooperative Learning

This brings up the topic of cooperative learning groups and group projects. When the problems created by grouping students are brought out, some teacher educators dismiss the objections by proclaiming that that is how the business world does things. They claim that students need to get used to doing things this way, regardless of the problems associated with it. They claim that it is the "real world". It is not. The real world demands accountability of the individual in a way that is not a part of student grouping. Students don't get fired or demoted. They aren't left behind as others are advanced. They don't become obsolete or laid off. Those demands on the individual are frequently not kind or considerate. Allowing some students to slip through on other student's work will not prepare them for the "real world" at all.

Sometimes teachers use grouping and "authentic" projects because they can be graded very subjectively. Oh, they don't think this consciously. They claim other reasons, but often the real motivation for doing this is the grading. This allows a teacher to not "flunk" a student. Each student was part of it, so they all get some kind of grade. Receiving a failing grade is not pleasant for the student, parent, OR THE TEACHER. However, sometimes it is necessary for all three to see things as they really are. Hiding or avoiding the truth is lazy and hurts the student far worse that the pain of the grade. Again grouping and projects CAN be a valuable tool, but like certain vitamins must be used sparingly or they do more damage than good.

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