Monday, July 24, 2006

Group Presentations

What’s the best way to handle group presentations when not all members of the group show up?

In my faculty days, I never found an elegant way around this. I was partial to group debates in some of my classes, and when they worked, they worked well. But there wasn’t enough class time to do one-on-one debates and include everybody, so they were usually three-on-three. And at least once in the sequence (and sometimes more), a team would be pressed into playing shorthanded.

I wasn’t happy with that, since it seemed to me to put undue pressure on the students who actually did what they were supposed to do, but aside from giving the absentee a zero, I wasn’t sure what else to do. We didn’t have time in the semester for makeups, and I didn’t want to reward absenteeism with extra preparation time. It also would have thrown the sequence of topics in the course out of whack, and with some students barely hanging on as it was, any added confusion was to be avoided.

In a perfect world, student peer pressure and the threat of shaming would be enough to cow even the most devoted slacker into putting in at least a token effort. At some small, residential colleges, that might actually suffice. But at commuter colleges with some students who are, um, let’s go with ‘easily distracted,’ it’s pretty much a given that some kids will simply flake.

Since plenty of academic bloggers have used exercises like these, I’ll try to tap into the electronic brain. Has anyone out there found an elegant solution to the problem of absenteeism on group presentation days?