Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Was I That Kid?

I learned something from a group of 7th graders the other day. I was conducting a focus group around what students find interesting in school. The topic of working in groups came up, as it typically does. The students were expressing a preference for being able to pick their groups. I was probing a bit and asking about other ways of forming groups--randomly, or the teacher picks, etc. One student said that the problem with such groupings is when there is one "smart" student in the group.

My memory rewound to my own experience in school. I found myself agreeing, internally. There is a problem with that.  My bias is that group work, though beneficial for lots of reasons, does have an inherent unfairness in that the industrious kid does all the work, while the lazier students ride my (um) his or her, coat tails.

The key words are: my bias. What the students went on to teach me is that the problem is that the "smart" kid dominates the group. Other students want to help, want to participate, want to learn, but the smart kid won't let them get an idea in edge-wise.  I had never thought of it from that angle before.  I was an A student in school, at least academically.  After the focus group, I think I may need to apologize to some old classmates for getting a D in "works well with others."

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