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new topic, working in groups

Megan Brown mbrown at fred
Fri Jun 21 12:14:31 EST 1996

Dianna L. Bourke (dlb17 at PSU.EDU) wrote:
: I think this started very early in my education when we were eternally
: asked to "break out" (new terminology) into small groups and "discuss"
: something. Most of the people in the group would stare dully at each other
: or down at the desk. I would wait for about 30 uncomfortable seconds and
: start the discussion. Somehow I always managed to do the lions share of
: most projects (like and idiot) or risk it being done badly and I never
: really liked study groups.

I had exactly the same experience early on, e.g. junior high and high
school. It seemed most people in the group were so unmotivated and to
avoid getting a bad grade, one had to do all the work oneself. The
alternative was trying to badger the other group members into taking
responsibility and actually doing some work. I think it is unfair to ask
kids to be responsible for motivating other children. Perhaps this
approach to learning is better applied at later educational stages, e.g.
at the undergraduate or graduate level, where the average student
motivation is higher.

: So my question: Are there many other women scientists that feel this
: way? Were you always like this, or did you get trained this way? What do
: you think of collaborative learning in
: introductory courses vs. advanced/grad courses?

I used to work in the Biotech industry, and the group approach to problem
solving was very much a part of the day-to-day reality. However, I had
mostly good experiences in industry with group efforts. Each person was
quite motivated and pulled his weight. Also, since groups were often
composed of people with diverse expertise, it was very obvious if one
person was slacking off, since other members could not cover for him
because they were not sufficiently expert in his field. I am not sure that
requiring young students to participate in group efforts really prepares
them for collaborative projects in their adult lives, so I guess I would
have to question whether collaborative learning in school has great value.
I had no official training in collaborative learning except for the
aforementioned early educational experiences, but yet I did quite well in
the collaborative environment in industry. I think collaborative learning
would best be applied where the motivational level of each participant is
quite high (grad school?).


Megan Brown
mbrown at fred.fhcrc.org
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Washington

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