Time to time, educators use group projects in classrooms to prepare students for future working environments. Students work together to complete complex, multi-faceted assignments in which each is responsible for a piece of the whole. Students then evaluate the effort each group member put into the assignment and individual grades are given. While this method allows the group to police itself, it does not provide an accurate accounting of each member's true knowledge of the subject. How can teachers assess individual learning patterns while still promoting group effort? There is a resource teachers can use to gage the effectiveness of group activities. Teachers can make a test to check each student's understanding of the material.
Team learning has been the subject of heated debates at home and school. Some feel the group is a wonderful learning tool while others feel there is no proof students learn when working as teams. Both sides of the argument are presented well.
Why Student Work Groups Work:
- Students who work in groups learn social skills;
- They are introduced to cultural diversity;
- Students learn cooperation and compromise as they implement several ideas into a single project;
- The group motivates from within because without every assignment, their project will get a bad grade;
- Cooperative effort makes tasks easier and faster to complete.
Why student work groups might not work:
- Individual achievements are ignored;
- The grades do not reflect individual assignments;
- Students dislike sharing a grade;
- Interdependent assignments are hard for students to understand;
- The stronger students carry the weaker;
- The weaker students bring down the stronger students.
The main concerns of those against group projects, pertain to grade distribution. Students, parents and teachers want to be able to track the progress of each student so children who are behind can get caught up. Assessing each child throughout a project would fulfill the need to evaluate student's knowledge of the subject. Or, is utilizing test maker software to assess their student's progress a detriment?
A short quiz or test maker would facilitate such a need by:
- Allowing the teacher to make a test customized for specific parts of a project;
- Contribute to a database of questions and answers used by teachers around the world;
- Simply generate the quiz needed by entering the subject, grade level and number of questions needed;
- Return valuable feedback to parents and administrators of a child's progress;
- Allow time for the student to catch-up with the group;
- Give the work group time to fix errors or complete missing work assignments.
Intermittent testing is a detriment to the group project because:
- Tests warrant unwanted competition in the classroom;
- Brings attention to students who are not doing well;
- Drops the self-esteem of children who struggle more than others;
- Discourages students from participating in projects;
- Puts too much stress on children.
Teachers must use their own discretion when weighing the pros and cons of a test maker. Grading group projects with the standard method: Each member receiving the same grade, benefits very few. The data collected from testing can be used to pin-point areas children need help in. The scores received on tests during a project can be put on a graph so students can track their own grades, which adds incentive for learning. Teachers can easily make a test, compare student's grades and make a chart displaying trends and other statistics to keep students interested in the project at hand.