Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Group Work (The More Things Change...)

Group work, I hated it as a kid and I loathe it even more as an adult. For children I can understand the social-learning that can occur when students attack an issue and learn through their interaction with each other. And as an adult, I also understand how arranging the Social Development class into groups for projects can help teach what’s best for the class we may be managing in a few short months. But still, I hate having to work closely with others.

In group work you have one of four individuals in your assemblage:

The Distracter
The Distracted
The Boss
The Catch-all

Now, no matter how large the group is, you’re guaranteed to have a mix of the above ailments.

The Distracter is normally the class clown, (or bully) quick with a joke (taunt, or threat) or an interesting impersonation of the instructor…This gets narrowed down into two fields: either they want to get the assigned work done and just get sidetracked or wrapped up in tangents, or more often, they disregard the work and rather do something “more fun,” (like tie your shoelaces together when you're not looking.) The Distracter's main goal is to be showered with attention at all times, and group work time is his chance to work with a smaller, more intimate audience.

The Distracted works in perfectly conjunction with the Distracter in able to fully hobble the group from attempting to get an assignment done. If the group has an absence of Distracter, there is a higher chance of work completion; however the Distracted can easily be sidetracked by noises, open windows, stains on the ceilings, or in the adult world, cell phones.

Having a Boss in your group is a double-edged sword. They may take the form of a task facilitator, quelling the Distracter with scowls and keeping the distracted’s attention on the work on hand. With threats, micromanagement and generally bossiness the Boss can keep control of the group and complete work through sheer force of will. No one really likes this person, but they are tollerated in groups that have some desire to get through a project. In adult group work Bosses don’t exist as often, graduate students tend to have an inner facilitator and also don’t want to make the faux pas of pushing their peers around. God forbid you tell the chick on her cell phone that she needs to hang up and get her portion of a presentation finished.

Behind every successful group stands the Catch-all. He is the kid who takes the project home with him over the weekend to “finish it.” The Catch-all is in it for the grade, and rather than take the roll of the Boss, he is more passive and takes the project as his own. He is normally the quiet kid who doesn’t speak up when the Distracter is blabbing on about the new sneakers her mother bought, or the Distracted doodles a raunchy sketch into his textbook. The motto of the Catch-all is “if you want something done right…you have to do it yourself.” Adopting this role keeps the Catch-all, who may be a geekier student, from being picked on and may even reach celebrity status within the classroom. In more rigorous assignments, when students pick their groups, the Catch-all may be chosen as a team-member as a security measure to make sure something decent gets handed in. Truth of the matter is, the Catch-all would rather die than get a failing grade.

Sometimes you get a mixture of roles in a student; the Distracter is also very easily Distracted (combining to make a Distraction) and wants to take other students in his group into the same experience. (Whether if this is in order to level the playing field so no one in the group doesn’t do work and he’s not the only student admonished, or he just wants the attention is never certain.) Or on a more positive route the Boss is also the Catch-all, (combining to be an Editor) who delegates the work to her group-mates and fine-combs the finished product to make sure it’s kosher to hand in.

Back to the task at hand: I am currently in a group assignment for my Child Development in Education class, and I abhor it because the same issues and processes that occurred in k-12 classes return with a vengence. And since it’s a group grade, everything has to be perfect no matter who does it. Right now I’m in a group with two Catch-alls and a Distracted. Now, it could have been worse…A Distracter could really harm the group’s dynamic, but the two Catch-alls (myself included) have to do the work of three because the Distracted of our triad is not to be found. We think she may have annexed herself to some pals in another group, or fallen down a well. Personally, I hope for the well.

In the end I know the finished product will be up to par, as Catch-alls tend to recognize and trust that passive hard-working quality in each other. Sometimes we dream of being an Editor, but Distracters and Distractions never took us seriously in grade school(and by not being taken seriously, I mean picked on us and made us cry,) and we dare not overstep our usefullness in the class. (I still have nightmares of such social suicides.)

Honestly, learning to be a teacher shows me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We never grow out of being those kids we were in Junior High. While how we interact may become more sophisticated, we’re still those class clowns or worker-bees we grew up as.


Blogger Clinton said...

This is fantastic stuff! This should be printed out, photo-copied and given to everyone that has to be in a group project or teach one.

Seriously, kudos!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thursday, June 29, 2006 4:53:00 AM  

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