Last week, I was chaperoning the annual 7th grade trip to camp. As part of the trip, the camp staff put our students through several challenges that emphasize working together to achieve a common goal. It occurred to me that while I value these kinds of challenges greatly, I don’t do enough of them in my classes. It’s quite difficult to do, really, even though from the outside it seems easy. Fewer papers/projects to grade, at the very least. But really, to get them to come out well, the project has to be structured pretty well, making sure that its completion requires participation from every member of the group.
The other barrier to doing them, for me, is that I want to make sure that each individual student learns the concepts I’m trying to get across, and there’s always a fear that if, for example, I let groups of students work on a video project together, some kid will shirk her responsibilities and won’t learn anything. We also kind of live in an environment, both at school, and in general, that emphasizes individual achievement. That’s hard to get away from.
But, that all being said, I came up with a project idea for my 7th graders that is a) a real thing the school could use; and b) a group project. I’ll say more once it’s underway, but let’s just say for now that the respond from Mr. Geeky was “Oooooh, that’s a good idea.”
I’m going to keep thinking about ways to put more group work into my classes. My experience this past week indicated that it’s a really important part of learning.