Saturday, December 5, 2009

Group projects

Group projects, while occasionally useful in limited settings, are usually just easier for the teacher, not best for the student, despite all assertions to the contrary. They create less for the teacher to grade, and what is graded is highly subjective. The teacher also knows that SOMEONE in the group will make it happen, and this will allow the teacher to pass everyone, thus avoiding confrontations from students earning poor grades. However group projects are frustrating to those who do the work and have to put up with those who don't. By avoiding giving the grade deserved by each individual, because the teacher doesn't even know what each individual has done, it short changes the students who have not been productive. In fact it promotes the attitude of just sit back and let someone else do it, because someone WILL do it, and they'll all get the same grade anyway. It actually creates the same situation that causes communism to fail! Even the pilgrims of Massachusetts found that people work harder when they have their OWN property to take care of individually rather than collectively.

Grouping works best if it is very short-lived, not graded, and used mostly to discover or reveal some little thing, after which the lesson continues. There may be some limited success using group projects, but usually this is not the best way to teach or for students to learn.

1 comment:

lbrown said...

Sure would have enjoyed being in the room next to yours.

I was the Mathematics and Science teacher in the Cusick High School for 13 years ending in 2003.

I was fortunate enough to be the subject matter "expert". I had the physics class do a team (2 students in 6 teams) project to compare the results of a simple activity to the results generated by the program 'Interactive Physics'.

The objective was to identify differences in the results, evaluate the usefulness of the software, and most importantly identify sources of or causes of the differences in results.

The project was successful beyond my wildest dreams.

"Stand and Deliver" became a tradition in the Algebra II (Saxon) class.