Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Groupwork Dilemma

In the car on the way home from The Girl’s softball practice earlier this week, discussing a group assignment she has at school::

TG: I’m glad I’m in a group with (names).  They’re all nice, and we all do our work.  But I feel bad for (other friend).  She’s in a group with three boys, and they’re awful!

Me: How are they awful?

TG: They’re always yelling jokes to each other across the room, and they don’t do any work!  

Me: Ouch.

TG: And the teachers expect them to be horrible, so if they ARE horrible, nothing happens!  But if one of us says something salty, we get in trouble!

Me: Yeah, that happens.

TG: They’re horrible!  And the teacher wants us all in groups with girls and boys, so there’s no escape!

Me: Hmm.

TG: Why would they do that?

Me: Well, I guess they want you to learn how to work in groups.

TG: But the boys don’t work in groups!  They just crack jokes!  The girls wind up doing all the work!  Poor (other friend) sits there doing all the work while the boys shout to each other across her face!

Me: Ugh.

TG: Exactly!  So you have a choice.  You can do all the work yourself, including theirs, or you can get a bad grade.  It’s not fair!

She’s in the seventh grade, and eerily observant, so I take it on faith that her description of knucklehead behavior is at least substantially accurate.  Junior high can be like that.  I’ll leave her (almost certainly accurate) description of uneven sanctions for another day.

Her description of the larger groupwork dilemma seemed to raise a larger academic issue, though.  We’ve all been in group assignments in which some members of the group wound up doing disproportionate work, while others basically free-rode on their efforts.  It’s the bane of group assignments.

So, two questions for my wise and worldly readers.

First, any tips for TG on how to handle groupwork in junior high?  I came up short on that one.

Second, has anyone out there found reasonably fair and non-creepy ways to get around the “free rider” problem in group assignments?