In my last post I mentioned that ranking our kids against each other isn’t useful because companies don’t need the best engineer, they need ten “of the best” engineers who can work together. They need kids who can work in groups. That’s the whole reason given for all the group projects my kids have been assigned at school. But in the past, school group projects have had all sorts of problems, especially for top achieving kids.
To look at this, I’ll again refer back to the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and how they do group projects at High Tech High. And for this method of learning to work another thing (besides how we think about grades) that would have to change at our school is how we do group projects.
Currently group projects in our district have a grading rubric a mile long with tasks you have to cross off. Quite often, students have no control over who the kids in their group are, and attempts to determine who in the group actually did the work have not been adequate.
Which comes down to grades again. There is always a grade given to the group project as a whole, so conscientious students frequently end up doing the work of others at home as homework, for fear of a low grade. Late into the night.
Yes, you have to work in a group at many jobs, but often the manager knows which task is assigned to who and is watching the work process. I’m sure there are lots of examples where this doesn’t occur, but I think eventually who keeps doing the work becomes. Either that or you change jobs when you can.
In general, children have no options for change; they’re stuck in the school district they’re in. So projects need to work differently. Plus, this should be when kids are learning to work in groups, so at the very least there is going to have to be a lot more teaching and guidance in just how to do that.
Over the years my kids have been in school, there has been an increase in the number of projects our students do. The problem is the specifics of the curriculum haven’t been cut to allow time for projects.
For example, an AP history teacher very proudly talked to me about a project that on the surface seemed very creative and fun. And he mentioned that it replaced an entire section (or chapter) of lecture, like it was a big time saver. However, I pointed out to him that doing something creative always takes more time than doing something straight-forward. Therefore, it would necessarily increase the amount of time that section or chapter would take. Not to mention that the project required that each of the five students in the group project repeat 3 exercises for 5 concepts, and there was more than one group. The result was that my child was up past 2 am doing her 3×5 exercise more than 3×5 times trying not to repeat something that had already been done (she had been out of town for a school event), while she was sick, because she didn’t want to let the rest of her friends in the group down. And she wasn’t the only student logged on at 2 am – we could see other students logged on to the same system. (And yes, we tried to get her to bed but you should have experienced the despair that came with that thought.)
In addition, the curriculum has been expanded at the state level (influenced by the national level.) So projects have been another way to just pile more work on our kids.
The other thing that is going to have to be changed with project based (or more student-led exploration) learning is the size of curriculum. When we embrace deeper learning, by whatever method, we’re going to have to acknowledge that less breadth is going to be covered. I’ll go into that in my next post.
More articles in this series and review of Most Likely to Succeed
- Most Likely to Succeed Documentary Review and Discussion – Part 1/11
- I hate school – Most Likely to Succeed, Part 2/11 Does your kid hate school? Do kids they really hate it because they have to work hard and they are lazy, or is there another reason?
- How important is doing well in school to success? – Most Likely to Succeed Part 3/11 Have you told your kid that it’s for important so they can get a good job? How important is doing well in school to success?
- We don’t need human calculators, so why are we training them? – Most Likely to Succeed, Part 4/11 Our education system was designed to train workers for jobs that are being replaced by machines. It’s outdated.
- Fear of Failure in Education – Most Likely to Succeed Part 5/11 Schools are as much afraid of failing the test as students are, in spite of it not being a guarantee of success.
- High Tech High – Most Likely to Succeed Part 6/11 In search of a new model for teaching, an alternative to memorizing facts and to regurgitate them on tests – High Tech High.
- Project Based Learning – Most Likely to Succeed Part 7/11 Most Likely to Succeed presents the best solution I’ve seen to the problems of run-away tests and hours of homework – project based learning.
- Grades – What are they for? Most Likely to Succeed Part 8/11 What do student grades mean? Are they a measure for improving learning? Or a way to rank kids against each other so we can identify the “best” kids?
- The problems with group projects – Most Likely to Succeed Part 9/11 For group projects like those portrayed at High Tech High in Most Likely to Succeed, schools will have to structure, teach and grade projects differently.
- Cut the School Curriculum – Most Likely to Succeed Part 10/11 To change learning to be more in-depth the way it is presented in Most Likely to Succeed, we’re going to have to cut the school curriculum.
- Most Likely to Succeed – Learn more Part 11/11 Change the antiquated structure of education to prepare students for jobs and create happier, healthier, more creative individuals.