Sunday, 13 July 2014

What would you rather do group work or go to the dentist?

Rather then commenting on articles, I thought I would blog about the insight I gained this week on group work.  In my own classroom, I limit the amount group work in my courses for the following reasons:

  1. students have repeatedly told me how much they "hate" group work, "loathe" group work, would rather go to the dentist then doing group work.  Students have commented that the work load never seems fair and the anxiety levels alway go to extreme levels before due dates.
  1. How do you accurately mark individual learners?  If you mark everyone equally then often you get disgruntled learners who feel that he/she did more.
  1. Late, incomplete or missing sections impacting the mark of those who have produced excellent work.
  1. and then there are the social dynamics of putting people together--even if they choose their group members themselves.
  1. As I teach high school teacher, I won't even comment on the hormonal issues that can get in the way of group work.

Inquiry based learning has been at the forefront of my learning so far,  After reflecting on my own experience this week, I kept wondering if I was meeting Engstrom and Jewett's expectations for helping to foster a learning environment that maximized engagement for our task. Did I add or help to provide clear group expectations so as to create a safe environment to aid in engagement?  but I am also looking through other learning lenses.  I also believe that group work  falls under the category of situated learning.  Group work has provides the added dynamic of what personal previous experiences and beliefs to the project--as these influence the learning outcome. Greeno refers to this his article that, "learning that occurs in one kind of activity system can influence what ones does in a different kind of system (Greeno, 2006)."

Reflecting on the social dynamics of group work, I then found myself in an pedagogical type inner conversation of what came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, what needs to come first before group work can begin connection between the group members or the knowledge to work. Perhaps it needs to be the establishment of boundaries or defined roles. I'm not sure, but then again I can't answer the whole egg and chicken argument either. I think what I did learn is that it is important every member of a group comes with an inner dialogue previous personal and educational experiences. It shapes how they view group work.

The more I thought about my facilitating with group work, the more I wondered how my prior learning experiences shaped my own performance with my group? It ha also left me reflecting how I can make my own learner's group work experiences more positive and productive. I need to explore how I can help to provide the learning environment, knowledge, digital tools and support to scaffold their growth.

Works Cited

Engstrom, M. E., & Jewett, D. (2005). Collaborative Learning the Wiki Way. Tech Trends , 49 (6), 12-15

Greeno, J. G. (2006). Learning in activity. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 79-96). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 6)