Initial Publication Date: October 8, 2007

Dilemma - Attitudes About Working in Groups

(Note: this dilemma can be approached as written, that is from the perspective of the faculty member dealing with the situation below, or you can put yourself in the position of a developer working with this faculty member.)

A student comes to your office after class and states "I don't do groups." Group work is an important component of the class, as teamwork is one of the primary learning objective of the course. Furthermore, the course is based on project-based learning, and 30% of each individual grade is calculated from group projects. What do you do? Do you require a group activity under any circumstance? Do you try to get the person to buy-in on collaborative work? Or, do we find an equitable alternative?

Note: This dilemma was written by Alan Boyle, David Mogk, Karl Wirth, Suki Smaglik, Lisa Gilbert, Kathie Owens, & Lew Brown at the SERC Affective Domain workshop in February 2007 and modified for the POD workshop.

Proposed Solution to this Dilemma

Written at the POD workshop

Attitudes about Working in Groups

  • "Tell me about your experience." Listen to the problem, and open a conversation to (a) build understanding of position, (b) build fabric of acknowledgment of affect.
  • Emphasize early the importance of group work and its presence in the syllabus-establish expectation that group work is part of course. (You have the choice to drop.)
  • Offer the science: identify the values of group work, help faculty to see that learning outcomes are about skills and attitude as much as about content.
  • Create through discussion in group or with whole class: What does effective, responsible participation Look like, sound like in behavior? What behaviors are positive and contribute to community, what behaviors are negative and will deter participation.
  • Have students assess group process, with a rubric the students helped create, used formatively.
  • Get students to help plan individual accountability and group accountability (to prevent freeloaders).
  • If this question or problem is being posed by a faculty member, plumb in conversation their own values and goals, explore solutions rather than impose them.