I have mixed opinions about collaborative work in school. In the Websters Dictionary collaborate is defined as to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. That sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It is also defined as to give help to an enemy who has invaded your country during a war. Not such a good idea!
I do agree that collaborative work fosters new ideas and builds communities, all good. But I also think that group work can be detrimental to the learning process and success of a student. My daughters attended a public elementary school,where there was a tremendous amount of group or collaborative work. They had a lot of fun doing the projects, but I am not convinced that they did a lot of learning.
My younger daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in 1st grade. She was given extra instruction in school called SETTS. This was only somewhat effective (More details in future blogs). Because my daughter is such a social person, she was able to be very successful in a collaborative environment. She would negotiate with her friends to "do the drawing" and her friend would "do the writing," and so on. Her teachers would always say how well she was doing and how great she was progressing in school. The collaborative work seemed to be a smoke screen over what was really happening...she couldn't get work done on her own.
We were very blessed that my daughter was accepted to the Stephen Gaynor School. There, she received one on one attention to really assess what her strengths and weaknesses were. She made tremendous strides at the school. There was no way to hide in groups at SGS. She needed to be accountable for her own work.
She is now at a new school, where there is tremendous accountability. She was faced this past week with a group project that she was very unhappy about. She found that the group dynamics were not strong. There was a lack of communication and effort on some of the group members. She experienced great frustration and anxiety. This time she wanted to do the work, but was concerned about the quality of the results because of possible weak links in the group.
Reality is that there will be group work in school and of course in "real life." I told my girls that they should always stick to these rules
- If you can, CHOSE YOUR TEAM- Don't pick only your friends, pick who will collaborate to get the job done the best.
- Be in charge of your destiny- The only one you can blame for your group not getting work done is you.
- If you want something done right, do it yourself- If you see a team member not getting something done, take over the task. Otherwise you will risk getting a bad group grade. That is the sad truth.
- Don't whine or complain. (this pretty much applies to everything) This doesn't solve anything. Deal with the hand you are dealt and make the most of it.
Group work can be fun and stimulating, but if it counts for a grade, or your job is on the line, make sure the work gets done no matter who you are working with...
I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on the matter. I think there isn't a black or white answer here...