Sunday, October 31, 2010

Does making children work in groups foster cooperation and kindness?

I've devoted several blog posts to critiquing the ideas of education expert and frequent New York Times op-ed contributor Susan Engel (see here, here, here, and here), including a recent post in which I object to her ideas about using group work as a way to prevent bullying. Back in August I had the privilege of being interviewed with Engel on this very topic on Rae Pica's BAM! radio. That interview has just gone live:



Enjoy!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Possibly. But only if it is MUCH better planned and structured than most group work is. And only if there is real value added by the group format. Just having children talk to each other is almost never a way to add value.

Anonymous said...

PS -- socially vulnerable children are not the only ones who are frustrated by group work; any child who experiences aimless talk the bulk of the time (as is almost inevitable when the children don't have a good grasp on the basic material underlying the project) instead of purposeful activity, will feel frustrated unless he or she is the type of child who enjoys any and all social interaction, for its own sake. Some do, some don't. And even the sociable children are not learning as much as they might be.

Barry Garelick said...

The only time I can recall a group showed cooperation was in my second grade social studies class. (Yes, we had social studies in second grade; it was all about "the community", since social studies was taught that way then, and probably still is). We had to take "true-false" tests in a notebook; the teacher would read the statement out loud as he paced around the room and we wrote our answers in the notebook. Except I didn't have a notebook for that class; long story as to why. He had the room arranged so that four students sat at a table. My table-mates knew I didn't have a notebook and they covered for me. The teacher would have us self-correct our tests by exchanging notebooks with each other and marking the answers right or wrong when he read them off. The person who received my non-existent notebook would pretend he/she was marking it. Then he would read off our names and we had to call out our score. I would make up a score. This went on for six weeks, and though my group mates would get on me for not having a notebook, no one told. I was discovered one day by the teacher who in Dickensian fashion told me to get over to his desk "NOW NOW NOW BEFORE I TUMBLE ALL OVER YOU!" Needless to say I was in a lot of trouble. Years later my mother told me that he became the laughingstock of the school--the other teachers thought it was funny that he was outwitted by a seven year old. He said in astonishment to my parents that he couldn't believe the other students covered for me all that time. Welcome to group work.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

There is a place for group work, but it is often done very badly in schools. See my posts
http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/group-work/

http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/summer-theater-camps/