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To Make Groups or Not To Make Groups

There's been some great discussion over on one of the comments thread about whether or not I should be making the groups for the final project. This is the type of situation I hoped would happen when starting the blog because it both a) is a really good "meta" conversation how people best learn and b) it forces me to explain my rational behind a decision.

I think Divya made a really good argument for why I should make groups:

i think that you (Mr. L) being able to pick our groups is a better choice. there are things in life that you're gonna get stuck with that you don't want so this would be good training. It would also show how much we've progressed over the year in being able to stand each other and get along. The groups [in my class] that have presented have done an equally good job when the groups were student chosen or teacher chosen.

I think the anonymous poster did a good job describing some of the issues with me making groups:

I disagree 100% with everyone who wants you to pick the groups. I know who I work well with and who I get along with. I also know who has the same goals and work ethic as me. I would not want to be thrown into a group that has people that sit back and don't contribute. If the people who don't care want a bad grade, then they can all get bad grades together.

With that said, here, in no particular order, are some of the main reasons why I want to pick the groups

  1. Let's say there are 6 groups (has there has been for most projects this year). Any time the students pick groups, I'd say there are 2 groups that work really well, 2 that work alright, and 2 that don't work well at all. Generally the two groups that don't work are groups where people chose to work with their friends.
  2. There's always at least one group that is the "leftovers." It's a horrible feeling to be in that group. I want to avoid that for this project.
  3. At this point in the year, I think I know my students well enough to maximize the chances of success in groups. While me making groups may prohibit the 1 fantastic presentation I may get from a certain group of friends, it will also avoid the 2 mediocre presentations I get. That's a trade off I'm wiling to make.
  4. On the issue of "fairness," I think it is more fair to have a group where there may be one unmotivated person, than to have a whole group of unmotivated people.
  5. I want everyone to succeed in this project. By making groups, I can put everyone in the position to succeed. With the "same old" student-chosen groups, I pretty much know in each class there are one or two groups who are not as likely to succeed as other groups.
  6. in the reflections on the Teaching Asia project, the top recommendation for how the project could be improved (after "more time") was that I should chose the groups.

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