I’ve been experimenting with having surveys where students can tell me one student they would prefer to work with (and why), and anyone they would prefer not to work with (and why, no character attacks), but then also ask them about what makes for ideal people to work with.
This last question has opened a few themes:
A very common one is just wanting to work with people who “care” to learn
- “Care to learn/understand the material”
- “I’d like a group that cares about physics, if that makes any sense”
- “I would prefer to be with the students who really care, because I want really learn the material”
- “people who aim to understand”
Another is people willing to put in time, effort, and who contribute
- “I would like to work with people who do not mind staying over, doing the extra problems.”
- “People who give input or ideas for solving problems and not just waiting for the others to tell them the answers.”
- “I’d like to be with people who are there to try to do their best. If I was with someone who didn’t want to put in the work and just tried to slide by it would be a bit frustrating for me.”
Pacing (goes both ways)
- “I want to work the faster paced group”
- “I don’t want to work with people who are trying to finish as quickly as possible.”
- “Similar pace to me — It’s just hard to be patience and not go ahead and finish something on a problem when you know what to do but another person doesn’t.”
Talkative / Outgoing:
- “People more outgoing than me – I tend to be more reserved at first and it helps me become more involved in discussion if someone else is more open to starting it. “
- “I want to work with more outgoing people, who talk and make the work more fun”
Attention to Detail:
- ” With people who work their problems very neatly on the boards, so that we learn how work through problems clearly.”
- “People who care about details, instead of rushing to get done”
I think a lot more themes could come out if I asked the right questions… but these are still interesting.
This has always been an interestng dilemma to me. In my (limited) experience, I have very few students who aren’t willing to put in the work, but so many students are concerned that they will be the only ones putting work in to a group project. (I was one of those students when I was in college and still am sometimes in grad school…) I wonder if it comes down to how they perceive different styles of workers. Maybe they only want to work to people similar to them, but they don’t realize that and have not had the opportunity to do so, so they think they don’t like group work.
Whatever it is, I try to make them challenge the negative feelings that tend to surround group work. It’s always interesting to see.
I think a lot of the students who others perceive as not putting in the work, are students who either (1) have a lot going on outside of class (work, family, financial stress), and schools takes a lower priority, not because they don’t care, or (2) students has anxiety of some sort (could be related to social or could be related to content / class). I agree that you are right though that I could help my students to broaden the possible stories they could tell about their peers. One kind of common story is “they are lazy”, “they dont’ care”, but other narratives available to use can be “they have a lot going on.”, “they are feeling really uncertain about the material”, “we haven’t yet helped make this student comfortable in the group.”