So you get inquisitive and you ask the class if they like the new system and everyone yells “no!” Literally, everyone. This consensus totally throws you off-guard and you get a little more curious. But, of course, you don’t want everyone yelling at you again so you say “raise your hand if you don’t think you’re learning anything in math because of the groups.” Hands shoot up like rockets. All of them.
What does this mean, in the scheme of things? Is group collaboration a bad idea? Should all students be left to fend for themselves? Well, no. Obviously not. The ability to rely on your peers is very valuable in a place of learning and that’s not something that teachers should yank away. But maybe they’re doing it all wrong.
The way things work is as such: you work with whomever you’re assigned whether you like it or not. Whether you like them or not. Whether you work well together or not. So you (you’re no longer my social studies teacher) sit at your table and shut up for a while as your teacher does her teacher thing and everyone listens. That’s all great; that’s how it always is. But then you have to work with your group. It doesn’t matter if you work better alone or if you’re faster or slower than everyone else. It doesn’t matter if the girl to your right is asleep and the boy across from you is making paper airplanes and the boy to your left is chatting with someone all the way across the room. You work together or you do all the work for them, and you don’t want to do that.
So the girl next to you wakes up and you have to explain the entire lesson to her and the boy who was making paper airplanes has so many questions that you have to answer and suddenly you’re being bombarded and all you wanted to do was get your work done. The bell rings and you’re halfway done with your group’s work and you didn’t get answers to your questions because you were answering everyone else’s questions. The group test is tomorrow and you don’t know how to use the law of cosines and you’re not sure that anyone in your group knows what a cosine is. Guess you’re stuck with all the work tomorrow. Hopefully your test is the one she grades, because otherwise you’re screwed. Good luck.
Fortunately, this has never happened to me. Being in honors geometry, most of the students in my class can keep up and luckily so can I. But in the College Prep classes (not honors), students have a wider range of understanding and pace. I have many friends that can’t really get anything done because everyone else is too slow or too fast. Even in Honors classes, everyone works at a different speed and it’s not fair to clump them together and make them rely on each other for help.
I’m not ragging on my teacher at all. She teaches and she helps as well as any other teacher. That’s not the point. The point is, half of my grade depends on everyone else in my group, and that’s not fair.
And yeah, yeah. I get that in life we’ll have to learn to work with people we don’t like. But the difference between high school and life is that you don’t get graded on life. You don’t have to take a timed test and you don’t have to finish your work before 2:45.
Working in groups is an important aspect of education, but it has its time and place. Its time is not always, and its place is not on tests.