Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teaching and Group Work

In many of our classrooms, we encourage group work with the "goal" that students develop the ability to collaborate. But, what is the end goal? What are the skills that a student will take beyond the classroom?

Do we imagine students haven't played sports? Haven't played games in which cooperation was essential to success? If anything, the collaboration in our classrooms is false, artificial, when compared to the collaboration of a hockey, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, or volleyball team. If anything, our students know the value of teamwork from situations with winners and losers — and they probably take these more seriously than many "peer" exercises in writing classrooms.

Teaching begins with asking what it is students should be able to accomplish.

Too often we have a set of activities, an entrenched list of assignments, that are passed from one teacher to the next without asking what it is we hope students can do by the end of a quarter, semester, or school year.
What do I want my students to accomplish? What skills and creative abilities do I value?

It is not enough to have lofty, but ill-defined goals.

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