Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Group Research Project and some misunderstandings

This term I decided to assign a large group project and leave the group formation, policing and responsibility assignment to the members of each group. While many of you are probably thinking this is a recipe for disaster, so far it is going quite well. Granted when I announced to the class that research paper 2 will be a group project, couple of students asked if they can simply work on their own, ultimately the groups they have formed or ended up in (those students who did not find/form groups, ended up in one group) consist of nice balance between stronger and not so strong students.
The only requirements I set for the project are that A. the groups must have a minimum of 3 but no more than 4 members B. the research paper topic cannot be the same as that which any of the groups members wrote about for the first research paper C. the topic must be related to men and/or masculinity.

As the end of semester is fast approaching, several students have stopped posting on their blogs/completing assignments/attending class. This has of course caused some frustration to some of the groups; three have lost one of their members and there are now three, instead of four members in their groups. Some groups members approached me/e-mailed me asking what they should do if their group member is not responding to e-mails/texts/calls and not posting work by the deadlines agreed upon by the group. I've advised them to discuss this with their group, and make a decision whether to A. remove the group member's name, the one who has not contributed, from the portion of the project. (The project, as all the research paper projects I assign, consists of a proposal, annotated bibliography, first draft and peer review, and final draft). B. if that member, aside from not communicating with the group, has stopped attending class, then contacting him/her that he/she is not longer part of the group. Of course, both of these options mean, that the three members now have a bit more work to do; instead of doing 1/4, they are doing 1/3.

So far, the groups have completed the first two parts of the research paper- proposal and annotated bibliography- and it seems that some groups are dividing the work equally between the members(the annotated bibliography consists of 4 sources, and each source is written in a style/tone/mode particular to each group member), and others are either working together and reviewing each other's work before submitting it, or one group member, or the strongest writer, is doing most of the work. I'm hoping to get a bit of an insight into each group member's contribution during the presentations of research papers, which will take place on the last day of class.

Lastly, I really dislike offering extra credit or mentioning it, as students automatically begin asking whether everything we do in class is extra credit and therefore optional. My students and I are still debating what to do with the extra credit associated with a class debate. The debate was not an optional activity and everyone was required to participate. But I told the class, that the team which wins the debate, and we will decided this by voting on the video of the debate I'll post on the class blog following the debate, will receive extra credit. This of course caused some controversy as A. some students believe it was unfair they didn't get to choose which side of the argument they are asked to debate for/argue for B.others feel only those who spoke should receive extra credit...
Also, since we, the faculty, have embraced web attendance, and are now actually given the option of marking students excused as well as going back and excusing those students who provide documentation for their absences, this in no way actually helps us when it comes to students missing numerous classes or being late an hour to a two hour class. I would think that the attendance office would generate some kind of e-mail notice, warning students that they have missed several classes. Attendance is particularly tricky to enforce(that sounds too excessive but it's late and I can't come up with a better word/term) in a hybrid class as some students argue they can catch up on their work by posting it on the blog at a later date and that, as one of my students told me, "life happens [and sometimes students cannot make it to class]."
But surely, most of our students have other responsibilities that require punctuality and regular attendance/presence- work, internships, organizations...How is that different from attending class? And they are paying to be in school....I realize that this is not just a Community 2.0 issue, and pertains to the college at large, but if in fact students are only allowed to miss 2 classes, or four hours of class, per term, it would be helpful if this rule was reiterated to students via reminders from the attendance office...

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