Friday, August 14, 2015

The Problem With Group Projects

I haven’t been at the ICER Conference but a lot of my friends are there and between their tweets and other tweets using the #icer2015 hash tag I almost feel like I’m there. In any case a lot of interesting things have come through the twitter stream including this image.

Group projects are not always this bad. Well I hope they are not but they do have a bad rap for sure. Figuring out how to solve this problem is our job as teachers.
Part of it is going to be regular check ins with groups. Also making sure that our students have worked out an equitable sharing of work and that team members are accountable for their deadlines. We have to make sure that groups work the way they are supposed to work. We can’t be passive and observe only the end results.
I do ask students in a group to evaluate their peers but I find that often they will cover for each other. That helps no one. I’m always looking for more ways to make group projects work better. I think the things we want group projects to teach are important soft skills that students really need.


Leigh Ann said...

What this says to me is we've learned how unstructured projects full of group novices function. There is a reason there are protocols, hierarchical structures, and community norms around group work in professional environments. And, if we are not explicitly teaching how to be effective in a group, how can we expect students to just "pick it up" from an imposed assignment structure?

Mike Zamansky said...

Leigh Ann is absolutely right and it's not a CS thing - throughout schooling kids are put into groups but they're never taught how to function in a group.

It's something we really have to work on in my SoftDev class - in the beginning they really have no idea how to work together and presentations are, well, let's say, out there.

It's amazing how far they can come in a year.

If you haven't checked out my kids at the NYTM last month - check them out: (about the 55 minute mark) - that's what they ultimately get to.

Garth said...

Only in rare cases do I get kids that work at equal levels in group work. Kids that fire ideas to each other and then code as a team. Usually the group gets dominated by one and the others are perfectly happy to coast along. It takes management by me the teacher to keep the group work somewhat level. It does not help that I have never worked as part of a group in anything significant or been trained in group work. Another one of those teacher training things that slip through the cracks.