I’ll be honest. I don’t like group work. It is not because I don’t like working with others. It is because I’m a motivated, punctual learner and the groups I have been in in the past have not had these characteristics. My dislike for group work makes it difficult for me to sell it to my students. I know it is an effective instructional strategy. The old phrase “two heads are better than one” usually comes to mind. But more importantly if groups are to function correctly, they need some guidance. According to Brown (2001, p. 1) in his article Group Effectiveness in the Classroom and Workplace, he says that “students simply do not know how to work effectively in groups”. I would agree with this and it is not an easy skill to master. So perhaps for group work to be an effective instructional strategy, the instructor needs to prepare their students beforehand.
I teach in Surrey and Richmond and I see firsthand that not all cultures like group work. As instructors, we need to send the right message to students to encourage group work. Waite, Jackson, Diwan, and Leonardi (2004, p. 12) suggest that to increase group work effectiveness among students of differing cultures, an instructor can
- replace lectures with open discussion;
- design assignments to be collaborative;
- emphasize the instructional nature of assignments.
To conclude, why do we do group work? One reason that not everyone may think of is that when students enter the workforce they will be working in groups. Multiple companies have stated that graduates are lacking the skills from their studies to work in groups (Waite et. al., p. 12). Another important reason for group work is that thoughts/ideas can flourish when discussed with others. Learning comes not only from reading and researching, but also from discussion. Imagine a PIDP course without discussion? We wouldn’t learn much and it would be pretty boring.
Brown, B. L. (2001). Group effectiveness in the classroom and workplace. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, College of Education, the Ohio State University.
Waite, W. M., Jackson, M. H., Diwan, A., & Leonardi, P. M. (2004). Student culture vs group work in computer science. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 36(1), 12-16.