Students in my Government classes have recently completed work on long-term, collaborative projects.
Initially, I assigned the teams – after asking students for input about which of their classmates they preferred to work with (and which they’d rather avoid). I also spent some time considering ways to ‘anchor’ each group with a strong student leader and spread students who struggle among as many groups as possible… in short, I was hoping to be intentional about developing collaborative groups. I assigned:
9 project teams of 3 students each;
8 project teams of 4 students each; and
3 project teams of 2 students each.
Teams of 3 earned: A, A-, A-, B+, B+, B+, B+, B, B (avg = 3.4)
Teams of 4 earned: A, B+, B+, B+, B+, B, B, Inc (avg = 3.3 without Inc)
Teams of 2 earned: A-, B, Inc (avg = 3.35 without Inc)
Aside from the fact that two teams have yet to submit all of the required components of the assignment, I note no significant differences in final grades. (We can leave the conversation about grade inflation for another posting!) I did note a recurring theme among students’ reflection essays: groups of 4 tended to develop clear ‘leaders’ who complained about 1) having been burdened with ‘unfair’ workloads; and 2) other members of the group who didn’t “pull their weight”…
I’ve been re-thinking some of the fundamental assumptions that I bring to group design. For example: should it raise a red flag when 2 students working together (or 3) produce similar work product-in terms of quality-as a team of 4?
What is the ideal number of students for each collaborative team?