I'm writing a post on student group projects that ended in disaster. I would like to highlight the problems that typically arise and ways that students and teachers can help overcome them.
Please send me any horror stories that you have experienced either as a teacher or student. Thanks.
We are doing a huge Group Project right now. My final cumulative project that covers everything. This is a 15 day project so it takes 3 school weeks. I call it the "Rap It Up" Project and students create & plan out the summer concert tour of their own fictional rap group. This includes writing and original song and recording it. This is my fifth year, and 10th semester doing this project. I see a lot of different issues arise.
* Students who take home a part of the project to finish it at home do not finish what they said they would or simply lose it all together. Today, a student lost his group's song they spent 2 days writing. They had to start over.
* Some students do not like their work to be critiqued by their classmates. Each group has to create a logo for their Rap Group. As a group, they decide on the best one and that is the logo that will stand for their group. Every period I will have a students say "I like my logo the best but the other 3 like her logo the best!" Some students just cannot fathom that someone else may do better work than them or simply like someone's design better. \
* When you get into groups of 4 or 5 like we have, there is always the one student in nearly every group that simply doesn't like to work. I spend at least 10 minutes of every 40 minute class period playing Dr. Phil and trying to keep the groups on task. Every other period I will hear an argument break out about who is supposed to do what, who isn't doing anything, etc.
* Parents have emailed me saying the group project wasn't fair because their son or daughter's grade shouldn't depend on other students in a group doing their part. I always tell them that their child picked the group they wanted to be in and I offer their child the opporitunity to do the work by themselves. I have never had a parent take me up on that. They will complain about the group, their child's grade in the group, etc. However, when I offer them the opporitunity for their child to work alone and do ALL the work by themselves and earn their OWN grade, they back away.
* I have had a parent call me saying the project wasn't fair because her child had a student with special needs in their group. Again, their child joined the group and is friends with the kid.
* In my experience, grouping your students by ability tends to have 2 of the students doing all of the work, and 2 of the students continuing to underachieve and allow the others to do all the work.
* Allowing students to pick their own groups will sometimes end up with four under achieving students in the same group. As my dad always said, "If you hang with 9 broke friends, you are bound to be the 10th." Some of my students have no idea that their friends struggle in school. They cannot wait to work together in a group. Then they realize they have issues when due dates approach and they are behind.
* Group Work is very very noisy. You need a device or tool to get the class quiet, quickly. For example, if you need to say something, ring a bell and make sure the class knows you want them quiet when you ring it. Otherwise, you will be saying "Listen Up, Be Quiet, Listen To Me" like 3-4 times before everyone hears you.
* Students will always lose work, which can hurt a group. Allow the group to have a GROUP FOLDER that you keep in the room for them. I never let the folder leave the class.
Those are a view from my experience!
David, that's great feedback! I have definitely seen those issues arise in one way or another, especially the issue of the 'free rider' student. I created http://Enterthegroup.com as a way to help students overcome this problem. It provides a way for them to store files (so no one loses things) and to break down work into tasks using a project outline. The teacher can monitor their work by being a group member. This helps resolve arguments with grades and discrepancies over who didn't do their work.
I'd love to get your feedback on the site. It's totally free. Thanks!
So true Jeff. Harvard Business Review has been running a series of posts on their blog about learning from failure, they're quite good. You should check them out.
The problem is that everyone loves a winner and runs away from losers so we fear being that 'loser' even though the truth is that we've all been there at one point or another.