Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Perils of Team Projects

It was probably Socrates, or some equally impressive scholar and mentor, who came up with the grand plan of partnering students for a single project, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. There wasn't a school year that went by that didn't involve at least one of these ominous team efforts. If the word on the street is right, partner projects seem to torment students today as well.

Oh, it all starts out fine, especially if you like who's on your team, but then someone (usually the person with all the notes) gets sick, someone else's dog eats the diorama, or someone just 'forgets' their part. Knowing you'll share the final grade, do you cover the weak link on the team, or just cross your fingers and hope for a miracle? When it's over, do you prepare a power point and take your case to the teacher, clearly labeling everyone who dropped the ball?

Partner projects are supposed to teach us how to work with others, how to organize an effort and how to blend individual talent into a cohesive presentation. Nice theory, but how do you make it happen? How do you influence others to participate when they'd rather use group research time to catch up on their sleep?

Looking back, I have to wonder if partner projects weren't created just for the amusement of the administration. It might have started as a social experiment complete with hidden cameras: leave children alone with an assignment and watch the sparks fly – from a safe distance. Or maybe those pesky projects gave the super smart kids a chance to be popular. Everyone envied the group with the genius, especially if they could convince the genius to do all the work.

I suppose partner and team projects are really opportunities to learn how to learn and there's no doubt it takes lots of practice to learn how to play nice with others. I'm trying to recall a team project that went smoothly…and coming up empty. Unless marching band counts? That's where I learned to apply humor, compassion, and snack foods in equal measure to soothe the wounded and weary during long practices and competitions.

Are there any perilous team tales in your past - or present?


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1 comment:

Norm Cowie said...

I know some authors who co-write as a team, mostly with success. I couldn't do it ... mostly cuz' I'd be the weak link.