The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The More I Know, The Less I Understand

Posted by Seeking Solace |

I don't get it.

The "it" is the inability of my freshman critical thinking to anything other than whine, complain and pout over every aspect of the course.

Remember this student? Well, she sent me an email in which she blasted one of the members of her group who authored the group status memo I had each group submit during my absence. She cc'ed the other students in the group, but it email was mainly sent to me.

Can you say "troublemaker"?

It's not just this student. Every student in this class is a whiner and complainer. Two members of another group came to me after class, complaining that no one listens to them in the group and one of them members bosses them around. When I asked them if they discussed their concerns, they said "No, we thought you would for us."

And, let's not forget those who just complain that the project is 'too hard". I have assigned the project for the past three years, and no one has ever complained that it is "too hard". Even students at Former College, which do I say this delicately...more "special" than most students at Private College...had no issues completing this particular project.

I am at my wits end. I am just about ready to forgo the project because I just don't think they are capable of completing it. I really think this group lacks any real problem solving, teamwork or life skills. I just don't know if I can put up with this for another five weeks.

Have any of you just wanted to toss a portion of the course in the crapper? Or toss your students in the crapper?

ETA: I am also thinking of having each student write their own paper but do the reserach as a group. I don't know if that would work.


JaneB said...

Ah, the joys of group work! I usually get to this point and give them a version of the 'we have to prepare you for work, and at work you have to be part of teams, and will be judged on the team's performance in many cases' speech. I usually name a couple of colleagues who have very different styles to me, especially one who is infamous for always being late for class, bringing the wrong lecture to class etc. etc., and point out that I have to work in teams with them - I ask them to imagine me (very verbal, needs to be organised, easily stressed, wants everything clearly in writing) working with Dr LaidBack which usually gets a giggle, and gets the point across that I understand that it's hard, but that I also know that it's necessary.

I wouldn't modify the write-up at all. If you really want to modify things, you could add a short (small number of points) reflective essay that they write individually in which you ask them to write an account of the group dynamic during the project, focusing on what they have learnt for future work - essentially asking them to reflect and record the dos and don'ts of group work. I always mark this quite generously, if they've reflected and not just blamed they get an A-mark. Student comments like "I've learnt that being friends with someone actually makes it harder to work with them in a group when they aren't pulling their weight", "I now see the point of having some agreed rules like 'attend all meetings' and chasing up the first time that someone breaks a rule" or even "I've learnt that I need to find a line of work where there isn't much team-work because it stressed me out" are all really useful things (even if you'd HOPE they'd've learnt this before coming to college - like in the playground maybe??)

Ianqui said...

I don't know the best way to deal with these students in particular, but I just wanted to commiserate and remark that I've had the same thing happen. It's amazing how *I'm* the same person and my class materials are always the same, but some classes love it and others hate it. Even worse, sometimes the classes become an echo chamber where one person complains and then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. It really does stymie me how the content changes so little from year to year, but the class make-up can make or break my experience.