Interesting read from science communicator and outreach advocate Amanda Baker up on the Scientific American Blog.
Thinking back to school, there are few examples that would get a more consistent and collective groan than group projects. Enthusiasm for group projects seemed inversely correlated to the amount of work a particular groupmate intended to do. And participation in the project somehow guaranteed that members would devolve into some sort of destructive stereotype: the dictator, the slacker, the martyr, the lone wolf, or the sidetracked enthusiast. Most kids wonder why – in the interest of grades, fairness, and personal sanity – projects can’t just be done individually. We all look at the end of high school as the day that we will no longer have to artificially trust a random classmate with our grade. But no…
Everything is a group project. Running and fixing machines on a factory floor? Group project. Planning a road trip with your friends? Group project. Living in a house with roommates? Managing a team of editorial interns? Parenting? Group projects. And getting a rover to Mars? That is a project with a group of hundreds. It may be too lofty a mission to convince students that group projects have not been designed as torture specifically for them, but maybe we can start framing the resulting conversations as useful skills rather than necessary evils just to get the grade they want in the end. And learning at the expense of a project grade is better than learning when one of your colleagues arrives in another country without the proper visa and nowhere to stay.
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