Monday, 19 October 2015

I shouldn't read

the columnist Andrew Bolt.
This morning he was writing about "group assignments" at university. Yes, those.
"Um...Cat, we have this group assignment..."
"Cat, it's supposed to be a group thing..."
"I've got this assignment to do and the others are supposed to be helping but..."
"The lecturer said we're supposed to do it as a group but..."
I want to put my paws over my ears and curl up in a small ball - after I have yowled, "Not another so-called "group" assignment!"
They rarely work. 
My doctor nephew did a lot of group work at university but there was a difference. People were assessed individually. That's vital. If you are a doctor you have to be able to show that you know the work - not that someone else has done it.
I am not nearly so sure about other "group assignments". By no means all of them are individually assessed. Far too many students are not pulling their weight. They let one, or perhaps two, students do all the work. 
Those one or two are going to do the work too - because they want to pass. Their degrees are important to them. They are interested in what they are doing. 
The university staff complain to me about the standards. They know that group assignments mean that some students do almost no work and others do far too much. 
"We know who's not working," they tell me, "But there's not much we can do about the situation. We have to pass them."
Group assignments make that easier. There's less to mark too. 
The only group assignments I had at university were in psychology practicals and, later, in "moots". In the psychology practicals we all had to write up a different aspect of the practical. Our assignments were marked individually. In "moots" everyone had to get up and talk. If you hadn't done the work you couldn't do it.
Things have changed. The assignment is given to the group. The presentation is usually given by one person - and that usually means the person who has done the work. Some subjects no longer have examinations. I have known students to pass a subject without doing any work at all. It should not be allowed to happen but it does happen.
I look at the standard of work being presented to me. It is, even from students who appear keen and interested, sloppy. They don't know how to present an argument. They don't know how to use the resources or acknowledge them. 
In my first year at university I was taught how to present an essay. If we had a comma out of place our lecturers would mark the place with a red pen. Some years later I went to law school as well. In first year we did a subject called "Legal writing and research". Many of the younger students thought it was a waste of time. The mature age students usually saw it as the most important subject they did. It taught us how to find the information we needed. 
There is a lot more information on line now but the students seem less capable.
And those "group" assignments? I would ban them. At very least they have to be individually assessed.


jeanfromcornwall said...

Only tangled with group work when older daughter was at primary school she used to be furious that girls she regarded as "irritating, thick, and lazy" got marks that she had earned for them. One thing she always had was a strong inclination to justice.

cathyc said...

It's much worse than you think. All of academia works like this. 'Joint papers', which is what most of them are, at least in sciences. And often some if not all but one of them are on there to get citations and improve their job prospects. They don't even know what's in the paper, they have contributed nothing. It's really awful.

That is to say, it is all entrenched at the highest levels. If academics had to sort out how they assess kids, they know it would work to their disadvantage.

catdownunder said...

Happens here too Jean - and read Cathy's comment. As she points out the problem is also rife at the highest levels in academia.