Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ACA: More reflections on studying alone vs. studying in groups

Haley Scholars Spring 2013 Reading Groups

 Last week, we started receiving some important comments about studying alone vs. studying collaboratively in groups. We'd like to hear more from you on the subject. 

One of our contributors noted that after reading the first part of chapter 4 of Academically Adrift that "I was further convinced that collaborative learning does not play much of a role in facilitating student learning," because "meeting up with fellow classmates can quickly turn in to a social experience and it's difficult to create the necessary environment to enhance student learning." Another commenter observed a feeling of being "shocked" by the evidence the authors offered concerning the problems with collaborative study.

On the other hand, another one of our peers, who has had experience working beyond college, noted that the first part of the chapter was "a bit harsh" perhaps: "when we enter the workforce we absolutely have to be prepared to work with others" and thus "the idea of decreasing group study or collaborative projects to satisfy some standardized testing is bogus in my book. There just has to be a little more self-discipline and balance."

What do you think? How can we follow up and extend on what has been said, or better yet, how can we better pinpoint the problem or challenge with making collaborative work or group studying more effective?


Brenda W said...

Personally, I am not a fan of group work. Many complain about group work because there is always someone in the group that does not pull their weight but, the major problem with group work is the inconvenience. It is true that we should get experience with working in groups because that is how it is in the real world but in college, it is difficult because we all have outside lives that are very demanding. I feel the major problem with group work is the lack of focus. I personally work best alone, it takes me two hours to complete an assignment that would have taken two minutes on my own with a group.
However, at the collegiate level, I feel group work is already pretty effective. As long as the groups are assigned randomly or by an instructor, group work is more successful and will remain effective. Yes, it is still inconvenient coordinating schedules and meeting times but focus will not be a big issue if you are working with students you have just met. It takes the social aspect out of the work.

TaNeal Walls said...

When it comes to working on the same subject with a group I feel it has its pros and cons. For studying purposes, studying in a group is beneficial considering that another member of the group may have a better understanding on particular information or can explain it in a clearer way to another. When there are “social bugs” in the group to tend to get off topic often I do find it a bit more challenging. However, having special group rooms located downstairs in SSC does allow the benefits of group studying- I am appreciative of that and with the right group I find success in group studying. Group work/projects on the other hand is a bit frustrating to me. Individual grades should always be implemented in group assignments because every student cannot be equally relied on to produce the effort for a high grade that maybe other members of the group are really working hard for. It is expected that “all” students do their best, but this is not always the case. I understand why group work is necessary and I agree that having these skills for the professional world is necessary; however the motivation to put forth great effort on class work amongst other students who may not have those aspirations can be discouraging and frustrating. Having individual AND group grades would help students work harder at these group tasks.

Abagail Thompson said...

The dreaded concept of group work... I used to loathe working in groups. They would always play out the same way. The overachiever would take control of the group, delegate roles, but carry most of the responsibility on their backs. The apathetic students would coast through the project doing nothing,knowing that their slack would be picked up by others. At the end of the assignment, everyone would receive the same grade for doing different shares of the work. AWFUL! There are ways to prevent situations like this though, and create productive group work. It is all about the pedagogy behind the assignment.
Working with groups is a way of the world (you will work in groups at your job, church, school, etc) and its important to know how to conduct yourself. Honest and critical self-reflection is a key to successful group interactions. If each member critically evaluates themselves, they may try to perform better. Also, assigning each member of the group separate grades, or allowing members to evaluate each other will higher participation performance.

Overall, group work can be beneficial, as long as it does not turn into a social fest, or a "push the work onto one person" extravaganza. Even though independent study should be the main venue for learning, group work is still necessary, even if it is sometimes inconvenient or messy.It is important to prepare students for the "real world."

Jennifer Johnson said...

I think group study is ineffective unless each individual studies on their own (read the textbook, go over notes). If not, then it is possible for a study group to turn into a social meetup. But group studying has the potential to be very effective when each member has done their own work because everyone has something to contribute and may help others learn new things that they may have not been aware of

Tia S said...

I feel that group work can be helpful. Depending on the work you're doing, having multiple brains thinking about it can help. With different opinions and perspectives there's a chance you may end up with a better product than if you had done the work alone. In a group, studying can be more enjoyable, which in my case, helps me remember content better. Also, as one of my peers mentioned, they may know the answer or have a better understanding and can explain things to you.

However, there are also downsides to group work. There can be too many distractions, not everyone pulls their weight, and conflicts/disagreements. This is why I always prefer it when my professors don't give group grades. We work as a group, but we're individually graded based on the final paper/project/etc. and based on group members' comments and ratings. This allows the professor to know, for example, that if all the members say one person did not do their work, then that person doesn't deserve as high a grade. Using that particular method, I believe makes group work more effective.

Jamila M said...

Working in groups is essential to being successful in the work force. In the professional world companies are made up of departments and those departments are depended upon to produce and doing so together is the most efficient way. In college the way to highlight its importance is to force the issue. Many courses dont require group work or collaberations with other students. The process would definitely stimulate critical thinking which is beneficial to the learning process.

Candace P said...

Like many of the other responders, I have not had the best experiences working in groups. Every group assignment that I have encountered seems to “play out” in the same way. There is an inconvenience of scheduling a common time to meet with other group members. Additionally when meeting with the group, there seems to be at least one person who has not come prepared or there is at least one person who is distracted by technological devices throughout the entire meeting. I also find myself attempting to make sure that the assignment is thoroughly completed instead of actually learning something throughout completing the assignment.

Yet being able to work with a group is an essential to skill to possess, especially in the professional world. I believe that it is important to base the grades on a group member evaluation completed by each student and a group grade.

Sean Pettiford said...

Group work can be both effective and ineffective. If one is working in a group of random individuals then the social part of the studying is usually removed making it more efficient and goal oriented. on the other hand, if one works in a group of friends the quality of the study session may become poor. This is a direct result of the irrelevant conversations or interactions that may occur during studying. Also, the convenience of studying alone is a major factor. The effort it takes to find a designated time for everyone to meet up and study is an immense effort. To conclude, although studying in a group does promote essential social and teamwork skills the convenience and quality of work that can be completed alone outweighs the negatives associated with group work.