Affordances & Constraints - Group/Individual Work

The details of this chart are less important than the process of creating it. After trying both in the classroom and reading/watching how others use different techniques in the classroom, get together with a few other educators and fill out your own chart. Here's a blank chart we give out as a part of a Think-Pair-Share.

I'd caution taking an either or position and recommend a balanced one. Wouldn't it be nice for students to learn skills for a range of situations and how to reflect on them to determine if a different approach might be better for themselves or their group? Let's mix Cain, Shirky, Vygotsky, etc. to come up with a toolbox teachers can use to fit the context of their subject, students, and classroom.

Group Work
  • Skills we will need for many workplaces, community groups, etc.
  • For complex problems, group brainstorming is more successful than individual
  • More comfortable for extroverts
  • Majority of students want to work with others
  • Opportunity for students to be teachers
  • Opportunity for students to be leaders
  • Opportunity to learn/practice group and interpersonal skills
  • Peer feedback built in
  • Metaphors to consider: barn raising, sewing circle or quilting bee, art/architecture/woodworking studio, WoW guild or raiding party, ...
Group Work
  • Often just the equivalent of parallel play or X, not collaboration
  • Mindless "collaboration" can be detrimental to students developing collaboration skills and understanding when collaboration is a benefit and when it comes at a real cost
  • Depending on the context, individual brainstorming can be more productive
  • Can be harder to grade/assess (see teamwork rubric below)
  • Majority of students come with a limited skill set for working collaboratively with others
  • Requires real planning, time, and effort on the teachers part - most students don't walk in the door knowing how to do it well
Individual Work
  • More comfortable for introverts
  • Individual thinking and metacognition plays a role in the creative process
  • Generalizes Ericsson’s research shows it takes 10,000 hours of solo practice to become an expert (though that would be for individual skill - playing in a band or on a team would be a different case)
  • "Accountability" can be easier. Individual responsibility
  • Easier to develop a sense of ownership
Individual Work
  • Is there anything that is truly individual? Aren't there all sorts of prior knowledge (and conversations) that shape our thinking? At that moment it may be individual, but all the pieces we are using for our thinking come from somewhere.

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