Group Work In Public Schools

Decent Essays

“Alright,” the teacher says to the students, “I’m going to number all of you off into groups. Each group will read a section from the textbook and become experts on that section. Then, each group will teach the rest of the class what they learned from their reading.” This is an instruction common to the classrooms in the United States. More and more is the pedagogy of public education leaning in favor of team-based activities, projects, and learning. Group work is generally seen as an ultimately beneficial way to teach students, but this may be somewhat of a fallacy. The emphasis on group-based learning in public schools causes a multitude of problems. The push for group work is founded on the goal of preparing students for their adult …show more content…

Consider a team of at least two students attempting to complete an assignment. Assuming that tasks are distributed equally, each student is only ever responsible for, at most, one half of the entire project. While this division of labor may seem to lighten the load of everyone, it presents a number of issues. Every student working on one project receives the same grade, but only contributes to at most half of the effort required to receive that grade. In much greater proportion are an individual’s grades determined by the efforts of others. Therefore, one student may suffer from the poor quality work of another despite the fact that the former’s work was of high quality. To avoid this situation, a student might decide to do more than his or her share of the work in order ensure that the entire project is done well. In turn, other students might decide not to work as hard if they know that someone else is willing to do their work for them. The unfortunate outcome of these opposing behaviors is a cycle of unequal work ethic. To paraphrase Vilfredo Pareto’s famous principle; twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the …show more content…

Imagine again the scenario from the beginning of this essay in which students teach each other material from a textbook. This exercise falsely assumes that each student is as adept in the arts of education as the teacher him or herself. Furthermore, each student is only capable of teaching as much as he or she learned from the textbook. Thus, his or her peers are only capable of understanding the content as well as he or she did, which might not be that much. Many students would be much better off reading all of the textbook themselves. Regardless, the students that learn best from oral presentation, for which the exercise was intended, should be taught by their trained educator and not by their inexperienced peers. The simple reality is that different people have different minds and personalities, so group-based education is not always conducive to every student’s

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