making group work palatable

Subject: making group work palatable
From: Miki Magyar <MDM0857 -at- MCDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 12:49:35 -0700

Mary Massirer asked about making group work palatable. Yes, it can be
done, and yes, it's easy to make it a useless waste of time.

I taught Intro to Tech Writing several times, and used a *lot* of in-class
collaboration. It was made easier because the classroom had round
tables, so each table became a de facto group. After some formal
training on reviewing and editing, I required that before they handed in
any assignment, they pass it around the table for a final review. Then I
would accept as 'done' their notations on changes they would make
based on this review. It was very effective on a number of levels. I also
used group work to create evaluation criteria for their presentations,
proposals, papers, etc. Since these were night classes for adult
students, it would have been inappropriate to ask them to work on a
major project together.
Feedback from the students was that they learned as much from
working with each other as they did from the formal lessons.
I think any group or collaborative work should be designed so it's clearly
more effective to do it that way than by yourself. At the college level
they shouldn't have to learn how to play nice together, and they (and I!)
resent irrelevant exercises.

The Occasional Pedagogue
mikim -at- mcdata -dot- com

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