With or Against "Groups in Class"? Do you think that group-work is better than individuals work? Answer this by taking into consideration the following:(group members, co-operation and getting along together, the out come "individuals or group"), and finally in terms of grading --> do you think it is fair to grade them as a group or as individuals?  

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The fact is, the administration in most NYC public schools are  looking for the workshop model of education in classrooms. They do not want chalk and talk. Therefore, in my science classes I try to have group activities and projects as part of my repertoire. However, I still teach by example and demonstration on other days. They really want the teacher's role to be that of a facilitator and the kids role to discover the learning to make it more meaningful. However, in all groups, you usually don't get an equal distribution of effort, therefore, there still needs to be individual work to get a fair assessment of student ability.

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Both as a teacher and a student, group work is problematic.  I think it is absolutely unfair to assign a group grade for a project, when I know that the group did not contribute equally to the work presented.  One solution I have to this problem is making them present "as a group", but having each student graded individually on their piece of the presentation.  That way, I know who really researched and understands the information.  As a student, I am always the one who does everything; that is the only real way I have of knowing that the work is done and it is up to my high expectations.  Obviously, this is not real "group" work,  because one person has taken over the assignment for the rest of the group.  That's what leaders do, but that means the rest of the group may not have done any of the the ground work for the assignment.  Certain students just have a propensity for taking over socially, and it may not be the most qualified or intelligent or creative of the group.  While I use group work all the time in my classroom, grades are never assigned as a group - always on an individual basis.  As an aside, I find it's very helpful to have students do these things in class and simply observe them and take notes to share with the group at the completion of the assignment.

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Well, I'm a science instructor, and science is by nature a shared learning type of enterprise. My students do labs and research work in groups and other work individually. One thing I have noticed, and that you may want to think about, is that the groups tend to function much better if there is one "take-charge" person in the group. Those who have good leadership skills usually function as a project manager, setting the tone right away by going over the task with the rest of the group and making sure everyone grasps the mission and the time line, breaking the task into sections, and then clearly asking each member what sections he or she is going to take responsibility for. (This works much better than assigning tasks, psychologically.) The leader then does periodic check-ins or redirects other group members. Yes, the leader is doing more work than the rest, but is doing considerably less work than if he or she were doing the whole job alone, as seems to be happening to you.

Before you say you can't do that, consider this: leadership skills are learned, and are an incredibly valuable commodity in the real world. If you come out of college having learned only leadership skills and nothing else, college will have been worthwhile and will pay off in the job market. On the other hand, without such skills you can be the smartest and most knowledgeable person in the whole company, and still never advance to a better position. You do not have to be a "social person" to be a leader; sometimes, the best leaders are actually somewhat antisocial, because they have a thicker skin and don't really care if the others in the group think they are being pushy or whatever; they are not there to make friends, only to get the job done.

From the tone of your question, you sound like a responsible person who cares about doing well. Although it may go against your grain to function as a project manager, I would suggest you try it. You can't change the assignments or the grouping, but you can change your approach to the work.

Here are a few links to articles about project management and the basic skill set and approach:

Six essential project management skills

Seven key skills of a project manager

Ten skills for project management success

I study English Language and Literature and the problem is that the major itself can be figured out individually, like I would understand if I was studying science that I have to work with others because it makes sense… but I don’t understand why I have to give a presentation with other people about a novel for example… I study in Jordan and as an Arab my native tongue is Arabic but my English is really good and I always work on improving and all but that is not the case with the students we have… some tend to read their presentation, others have a really low voice, and the ones who really annoy me are those who have no idea what they are going to present or skip the class of the presentation and thus the whole group is punished for it… a lot of teachers don’t understand how hard it is to work with other students because lots of students are not motivated! And other don’t care what mark they get as long as they don’t “flunk” the course!

 Literature is a wonderful real-life area with which to experience group interactions. Look at all the book clubs that have arisen following Ophrah's lead on her talk show!  Group work doesn't, I feel, have to culminate with a project, sometimes it is the process itself that you, as an educator, can evaluate.  With practice and after educating yourself, you can set up a system as I have done in my own classroom of using Reader's Workshop to have students function in a group setting.  While they are not collaborating on a project (I shun end-of-novel projects unless it is truly something enriching.  Creating a diaorama about a novel isn't, to me, anything more than a method of simply regurgitating information - something I feel our educational system has too much of already.), they are communicating with others with a common goal.  They are learning to listen to others, ask and answer questions, go back to the book to "prove" their points, take turns, pulling all members in to contribute, agree to disagree in some cases, and at the same time apply the lessons we've had for interacting with and analyzing literature.

I hated group work as a student through my graduation from high school and on into college for the reasons already well-articulated, but this process I've mentioned above really is a fit in my classroom and something that I wish my own teachers would have used.

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After a life-long career of teaching on the college level, I have discovered that the real problem is grading itself, and the emphasis on occupational training.  I am a believer in what my friends and I call IFNIS -- Institute For Non-Institutional Study -- This idea confronts a lot of the problems of traditional higher education -- the teaching toward a test; the ridiculous ratio of student tuition to teacher salary (in a Freshman class of 20 people, two pay the teacher's salary); the failure to teach how to think, abstract, interpolate and extrapolate, etc.; the lack of interdisciplinary study; the false layering of freshmen, sophmores, and so on; the needless capital expenses; the topheavy administration; etc., etc.  The Internet, and frankly, sites like eNotes, would make IFNIS possible.  All we need is a body of interested people to design it.  Write to me if you are one of them. 

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Group work can be beneficial to students and their learning process, but it must also be structured and developed with an end goal in mind.  Students are likely to take the easiest route if it's available to them. Can we blame them? Most adults would too.

Group work for me always has a group grade and an individual grade.  Each task given to the group must be structured in a way the the groups feel they have to work together to achieve success and not so that one person most do all the work while everyone else chews the fat and smiles behind them during the presentation. The biggest problem with group work is when teachers separate kids into groups without explaining expectations.  Too often do we just expect kids to know what to do.  When this happens, we can't be upset when they pawn the work off on the willing kid. However, by giving them clear goals, roles, and instructions, we can help students learn to work together to solve problems and to learn from one another.  Usually, this is our end result anyways, so we must make sure we're giving them the steps to achieve this.  We wouldn't just give them a piece of paper and a pencil and expect them to instantly know how to write an essay.

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My experience has been quite similar to that of Post # 4. Group work almost always devolves into gossip, killing time, socializing, etc. I have had very limited success with it, and have only used it on those occasions when I was being evaluated. It seems sad that group work is the politically correct way to educate out students, as determined by those who are not in the classroom every day. The issue of how to grade the work is another issue entirely. It has been far easier for me to avoid that problem by insisting that students work individually. Certainly they will be required to work together in the work place; but I seriously doubt they will all be performing the same task in tandem.

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Well, I'm a science instructor, and science is by nature a shared learning type of enterprise. My students do labs and research work in groups and other work individually. One thing I have noticed, and that you may want to think about, is that the groups tend to function much better if there is one "take-charge" person in the group. Those who have good leadership skills usually function as a project manager, setting the tone right away by going over the task with the rest of the group and making sure everyone grasps the mission and the time line, breaking the task into sections, and then clearly asking each member what sections he or she is going to take responsibility for. (This works much better than assigning tasks, psychologically.) The leader then does periodic check-ins or redirects other group members. Yes, the leader is doing more work than the rest, but is doing considerably less work than if he or she were doing the whole job alone, as seems to be happening to you.

Before you say you can't do that, consider this: leadership skills are learned, and are an incredibly valuable commodity in the real world. If you come out of college having learned only leadership skills and nothing else, college will have been worthwhile and will pay off in the job market. On the other hand, without such skills you can be the smartest and most knowledgeable person in the whole company, and still never advance to a better position. You do not have to be a "social person" to be a leader; sometimes, the best leaders are actually somewhat antisocial, because they have a thicker skin and don't really care if the others in the group think they are being pushy or whatever; they are not there to make friends, only to get the job done.

From the tone of your question, you sound like a responsible person who cares about doing well. Although it may go against your grain to function as a project manager, I would suggest you try it. You can't change the assignments or the grouping, but you can change your approach to the work.

Here are a few links to articles about project management and the basic skill set and approach:

Six essential project management skills

Seven key skills of a project manager

Ten skills for project management success

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You have lived and described well one of the distinctions between using group work in a college setting and using it in a K-12 classroom. It's much easier for teachers to wander around the classroom and monitor activity (or lack thereof) at the lower level! I found that group work was frequently a positive thing for my students in spite of the socialization that definitely happened along with the academic part. Requiring some sort of "report out" or accounting of work accomplished to the whole group at the end of class tended to help with focus, as did having a group product that had to be handed in with signatures of all group members. I usually didn't grade such products, but had the accountability factor.

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I use a lot of group work in my classes, but never for major assessments.  I like the social interaction of the group dynamics and that in a smaller group, even the shyer students can have the confidence to contribute. To keep groups on task there is usually a small group--then report to the whole component to the task. If I walk around eavesdropping, I can usually curtail the wasted time problem.  I also don't have the groups work for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.  There is a very focused task and a limited amount of time to complete it.

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I, too, dislike group work in most classes for the same reasons listed in the above posts. Another problem not mentioned is that much of the time is wasted in gossip, horseplay and arguing--not exactly a wise use of class time. I have had several classes, however, where ALL of the kids were motivated and there were few problems concerning group members not doing their fair share of the work. But for the most part, I limit group projects to only a couple per year.

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My problem with the idea that group work gets you ready for the workplace is that you're not likely to, in the workplace, be put in a group where you're competent and everyone else is incompetent and/or lazy.  At work, everyone will be fairly motivated to get it right because their job depends on it.  At school, not so much.  So I do not like the idea of group work and I try to avoid it.

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The grading of the group versus the grading of individuals is always a thorny question.  I have finally settled on a compromise position of a two-part grade, half for individual effort and half for the group effort.  I do think that students need to learn to how to function effectively in groups because in the world of work, a team or a department can be judged this way. If it's sink or swim for your group, it is of no use for you to complain about the slackers. It's up to you to get the job done.

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