Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Group Work

Group work seems to be one of the cornerstones that the curriculum stands upon. I'm not necessarily against working in groups, but there are always substantial problems that pop up.

Group Coordination.
Inevitably, we all have to meet up at one point or another. I've linked my Outlook with my Google Calendar so I know that both are up-to-date. We use GMail workplace accounts so we all have calendars. There are also other tools out there, like Doodle, that allows for people to see when people are available. Inevitably, there will always be an email chain that comes from someone asking if 3:30 on Tuesday is a good day. Then someone replies and says that class is on at that time, and lists when they're free. Then another does the same thing, and it just all ends up this unwieldy email chain of information that isn't practical.

On a similar note, trying to find a time in which EVERYONE is available is nearly impossible. The bigger the group, the more unwieldy the coordination. With clubs, classes, pro-bono, job interviews, etc, a lot of free time is taken up. Groups tend to meet nearly at the last moment to finish the assignments. Inevitably, someone had decided that something else was more important and decided to go to that.

I learned my lesson from my last experience with a group-heavy mini (mini 2). As soon as I read in the syllabus that we had group work, I quickly formed my groups, asked everyone to open up their calendars, and scheduled time to set aside purely for that group. If we didn't need to meet, then we would cancel at that time, but otherwise it was on. You had to show up unless you had a job interview or something.

Thankfully, my group members also had been burned by group coordination and accepted my demands without a fight.

Group Work
We learned in Managing Organizations that the collective intelligence of a team is less than the sum of the individual intelligences. In some ways, that appears to be so.

In most situations, we are given the option to do the work in a group setting. It's a heavily encouraged option to adopt, so we do it. The work, for the most part, isn't in need of group thought processes to work out. I was in a group last mini where we did the homework individually then sent the work to the others to make sure we're all on the same page. In other situations, the group just partitioned the work out to others so that they did their piece and that was it.

I watched Susan Cain's TED talk the other day where she discussed the benefits of individual work, especially for introverts. Again, there are benefits to group work, but being pushed into group work for the sake of group work is exhausting. I haven't really found a good solution for this yet.

Group Effort
Thankfully, I have not yet been in a group where a member just rode the coattails of everyone else - no free riders. Sometimes I felt like a free rider when I was in a group with people who were a lot smarter than I and could grasp the concepts that were being taught/tested much faster than me, and rather than waste time asking for help or clarification I just let them steam ahead.

This mini, all my classes have a group work component. Thankfully, for four out of five, there's a group project in lieu of exams. I like that.

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