Published: October 22, 2014
There’s no ‘I’ in team, but don’t tell that to the kids who end up doing all the work in group projects.
When AP Chemistry teacher Aimee Hansen and the rest of the science department brought Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) to Mason High School seven years ago, defined group roles also came with it. POGIL labs define group roles by having one person record the answers, one person ask questions, and one person lead the team. According to senior Vinny Cevasco, however, this is not always what the roles turn out to be.
“Generally there is always one person who will do more work than other individuals,” Cevasco said. “There will be one or two other individuals who are always like, ‘I feel like you’re doing all the work. Let me know what I can do to help’. And then there is the one individual who does one or two things or doesn’t do anything at all.”
Students such as sophomore Spencer Walsh feel the same way. According to Walsh, there is usually a sharp division between leaders and slackers.
“Some people seem to be very paresthetic in their way of going about things,” Walsh said. “Two or three people do all the work, and one or two people copy down all the answers. It’s not beneficial to them because they aren’t helping themselves or helping the group. The whole group would fail if not everyone pulls their part.”
Senior Annie Jones said that even though teachers try to make roles equal, it doesn’t really happen that way.
“I think that sometimes cooperation is successful in reaching a goal, but in classes when you do group projects, there’s always that issue of ‘Personally I would like things to go my way,’” Jones said. “It’s hard to trust people with my things, such as if they have all the work but then they don’t show up to school the next day. That’s a struggle. Or people that don’t want to do anything, then it’s all pushed on you.”
When POGILs are not being used, Hansen said she tends to be more laid back about defined group roles.
“In AP Chem, the kids have been doing (group work) for a few years, so I don’t really stress those rules at all,” Hansen said. “What I usually say is, ‘In your groups, I want you to pick one person to be your leader. That person needs to keep you on task and make sure everybody has time to understand (what) they need.’ I assign the leader, then I rotate that role.”
Although POGIL activities are very orchestrated in class, Hansen said they are used to set a life-long foundation of leadership and teamwork.
“What’s really important is when (students) leave and they start facilitating their own groups,” Hansen said. “That’s when we see them learning leadership and the benefits of group work. In class it’s a little simulated.”
According to Hansen, students who slack off tend to miss the opportunity to establish those skills. Sophomore Tunde Nelson admits although he has slacked off before, he recognizes the importance of group work.
“Slacking off was kind of funny at first, but then it comes back to bite you when you least expect it,” Nelson said. “At times I felt like I needed to be helping and contributing to the group because it’s not okay to leave them hanging.”