Does forcing students to work on projects in small groups make for a better educational experience? Maybe not:
Donald R. Bacon, a business professor at the University of Denver, studied group projects there and found a perverse dynamic: Many of the groups that functioned most smoothly were those in which the least learning occurred. That’s because students divided up the tasks in ways they felt comfortable with. The math whiz would do the statistical work, the English minor drafted the analysis. Then there’s the most common complaint about groups: Some shoulder all the work, the rest do nothing.
“I understand that teamwork is important, but in my opinion they need to do more to deal with the problem of slackers,” says Justin Triplett, a 2010 Radford graduate who is completing his first year in the university’s M.B.A. program. From his perch as a teaching assistant, he estimates that a third of students in the business school don’t engage with their coursework. At Radford, seniors in business put in an average of 3.64 hours a week preparing for class, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.
I hated the small-group process in college, so I’m enjoying some schadenfreude reading that it probably doesn’t work.