Common Core supporters have pushed the ideas of student-centered and group learning across the country. That is why it was especially interesting when veteran reporter Maureen Downey wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about:
Things teens told Downey they don’t like include:
- Classes where learning is disrupted and time is wasted.
- Teachers who don’t intervene when students commandeer classroom discussions or divert them.
- Unproductive classrooms where too much time is sacrificed to irrelevant chatter or tangents.
- Classrooms where kids decide how much and when to talk — the students end up being in charge, not the teachers.
- Group projects – most students hate them and wonder why schools revere them. One problem is that some kids put in work, but others on the team don’t. The smartest kids do all the work because the grade matters to them.
By the way, Education Week picked up on this article, writing a somewhat more favorable piece titled “High School Students Say Student-Led Discussions and Group Work Often Go Awry.”
After recounting all the negative comments Downey wrote, EdWeek just had to add that:
“Like with most things, both student-led learning and group projects have benefits despite the negative opinions. Group work is meant to teach students collaboration, and when teachers take a step back to let students initiate the class discussions, it can empower students.”
Well, that might just be mostly opinion, too.
As with just about every controversial area in education, I don’t think there is a lot of scientific research on this subject. When I searched the Institute of Education Sciences’ What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) with the term “Group Projects,” nothing came up.
Searched again with the term “Group Learning,” the clearinghouse provided only one paper in this area titled “WWC Quick Review of the Article ‘Culture and the Interaction of Student Ethnicity with Reward Structure in Group Learning’.” A key finding was:
“There were no significant differences in test scores between African-American students offered a reward based on group performance and the other two research groups (those offered an award based on individual performance and those offered communal learning).”
So, maybe the students Downey talked to know more than a lot of education professionals and Common Core boosters who continue to believe group work is worthwhile.
So, here’s a thought: Since Common Core is all about proving things, how about proving this one to the students!