Re: Making group work palatable

Subject: Re: Making group work palatable
From: John Ahlstrom <jahlstro -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 13:47:45 -0800

Mary Massirer wrote:

> My technical writing students are griping about the collaborative work we're
> doing at the end of the semester. I have grouped them in threes based on
> similar majors and have asked them to choose 3 web sites to analyze, compare,
> and contrast according to some criteria I suggested. They're welcome to add
> their own criteria. They are handing in a written report from the three of
> them, and each is doing an assessment of how the group functioned (who did
> what, did everyone share equally, etc.)

I, too, think this is a worthwhile activity. I suspect that
what the students are griping about is the collaborative nature
of the work. (For 10 years I had the opposite problem, I could
not prevent my students from doing collaborative work when I wanted
to.) Though that part is also valuable, it may be worthwhile
making the collaborative part optional in order to get a better
attitude toward the other parts. Let them choose their own
groups (with your approval) and make sure that if they do
it collaboratively they also write the group assessment. This
will lessen the number who do collaborate but may be
cost-effective overall.

A hundred years or so ago I had a sociology professor who had us
divide into groups to take a 3-essay, take-home final. He then
graded each group's test, multiplied it by the number of people in
the group and made us divide the overall grade (e.g. 263) among
the group members during the period when we would have been
writing the final had it not been a take-home. The group dynamics
were very interesting, but I am not sure I would recommend that
unless you need a research project for a PhD in sociology or
group psychology.

John Ahlstrom

"When a language critic complains about a word or construction, you can
be fairly certain that the target expression has already become common
enough to be considered standard and correct, and that if you read or
listen long enough, you will find the offending bit of language in the
language critic's speech or writing."
Dennis Baron
Guide to Home Language Repair

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