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Monday, February 04, 2008

Attention All Writing Instructors

Posted by Seeking Solace |

How do you feel about group assignments? I am considering a group assignment in which the students must write a proposal to change something that they believe is in need of change on campus. They will brainstorm in groups, but I am wondering if I should have them do a group paper or have each student write his or her own paper.

Here's the thing. I have always hated group work where the entire group is graded as a group. I was always the one who was stuck doing all the work, while the lazy-asses would get the same credit.

But, the other side to doing this is that group work is something that the student will have to endure in the real world. And there have been times where I have worked on a group project, only to have a lazy-ass take the credit for doing nothing.

My though is that since this will be the first essay for this class, it would be a good idea to have the class work in groups on the brainstorming and research, but have each student writing their own paper. It would allow me to evaluate their work. Then, I can group them based on ability for a full group assignment.

Any thoughts on this???


Kai said...

Not a professor, obviously, but I too hate group work. Brainstorming in a group is great, it's always nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of, but having to write a paper as a group is usually a nightmare, as you said one or two people usually end up doing all the work. I say let them write their own, even though it makes more grading work for you!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I've struggled with the group presentation thing as well.

I like the idea of brainstorming together -- but my experience shows that they need individual grades to keep the slackers in line.

Why not have it function more like a panel presentation at a conference? They have a common topic, each writes about part of that topic, working together to do some research in common, but ultimately responsible for their own part? They could even do some peer feedback before the paper is due... They'll have all the support of the group, but the individual responsibility of turning in their own paper.

You could have two parts for the grade -- most of the grade for the finished individual paper, but part of the grade for the group's combined research, brainstorming, creativity and support of one another.

k8 said...

I've had really good success with group projects in my intermediate composition courses. I think that one thing that helps students break up the work is that I have them write a modified APA style report/research study that has separate sections (Intro., Lit Review, Methods, Results, Discussion). Also, my project requires primary research that gets everyone involved.

I do think these types of projects are important. Collaborative writing/projects are actually fairly common outside of the humanities and outside of the university. One thing I always do, though, is to provide a couple class periods for students to work on the project in class. It gives them a chance to check in with me and I can get a better idea of how the group is functioning.

If you want to see a copy of my assignment, let me know. You can email me at

Astroprof said...

Most of the time I didn't like group work. I often wound up doing most of the work, and some people did nothing, but still got credit.

It is important for people to learn to work in groups. However, since we assign individual grades to students, group work is problematic. We have students work in lab groups, but each student turns in their own lab report. Naturally, the students who just sit there and let the rest of the group do the work don't do well on the lab reports.

I am always torn about how to do good group work with my classes.

righteous babe said...

I do it in my classes b/c my real world experience tells me I need to deal with groups no matter how much it sucks. Like I told you, I'm a big fan of peer grading, and that does impact their grade! I grade you on your merit, on the group's work and on what your peers said. I think I have some stuff people turned in about grading peers, remind me when we're both in the office.

RB said...

nm, left in on your desk, since you et in before me

comebacknikki said...

I do require a lot of group assignments in my comp classes b/c it is important for students to learn to work in groups. However, I understand how much it sucks to have a slacker in your group - to remedy this, I've starting using split grades. Usually, I have 60% of the individual grade come from the finished group project and the other 40% is an individual grade. To calculate the 40%, I use a combination of my own observations and evaluations from the other group members (they each complete a self & group eval). It takes a little more time/effort to do this, but I've found it really helps motivate students and to balance fairness.

Seeking Solace said...

Thanks for the imput. It really does help. I like the idea of peer review-grading.

RB: Thanks for the hook up!

desertdemocrat said...

Like others, I hated group work when I was in college because I ended up doing most of the work.

That said, I agree that it important for people to learn to work in groups. I try to find various ways to have students work in groups, but I grade their work individually. For example, each member of the group is responsible for a particular section of the final project and gets graded on the work they produce.

It's not a great solution, but it has worked well in my classes.