Dialogues About the Course
In response to MB's student response I would like
the following: I agree that not every group presentation
offers an equal learning experience. However, the learning,
for me, came in preparing our group presentation. I needed
to have a thorough understanding of the material in order
to participate effectively within my group. I felt more
responsible to my group than I may have to a singular
project. As I interacted within the group, I was applying
that knowledge. In its application came the retention. I
have used the vocabulary and ideas from our group
presentation more often in other educational studies than
any other material I learned through other teaching
Getting along with group members is an interesting point.
If teachers were consistently practicing the theories of
co-operative and collaborative learning, I suspect there
would be less friction in group situations. Should basic
human understanding and empathy still be a major problem at
this level of education? I'm eager to use the research
about teaching methods and its co-relation to learning and
retention. I'm surprised at how little of it I actually see
in the classrooms.
As for watching the other group presentations: Most of
them have been presented in an interesting and humorous way
which makes it easy to find the issues in the presentation.
I think the presentations are a refreshing change from
Just a few thoughts
A very thoughtful, insightful, and mature response. You
come across as a "reflective practitioner."
Dear Dr. Morton,
I did notice the difference between the group exam (many brains) and the
individual exam (lonely brain). I have wondered about the difference often,
and the class notes on Chapter 8 finally confirmed my lonely thoughts. I
understand it and it makes sense for tests.
However, not giving clear, detailed rubrics for assignments and brochures
does not enhance creativity. It takes me back to the days when I was in
school, prior to rubrics. The teacher would give assignments, we would do
them and upon return finally figure out what the teacher actually wanted.
Rubrics give the student a base for creativity. A student fulfills the basic
requirements of the level 3 and then tries to springboard into level 4 with
creativity. The student is still assured of a level 3 = security, motivated
to achieve level 4 with creativity. It is not terribly motivating to get an
assignment returned only to find out, the teacher's mindset of requirements
were completely different from the student's.
Also, DiBono's thinking hats is amazing and needs to be introduced the
first week of the course not glazed over in January. Many groups are
floundering and self distructing at this point in the course. Hat awareness
could have helped me just deal with the different personalities of my group.
My last and final issue is this. The group presentations are dandy and
humourous on occasion but the amount of time needs to be balanced. There
needs to be an equal amount of you talking. The lecture material you could
be providing (not everybody has time to look for class notes on the
internet) would enhance the textbook stuff because it is more interesting.
Since Christmans, all my learning in this course has been by writing notes
out of a very concept dense, stiff worded, tough to slog through, 30 pages
per chapter textbook.
These are just my thoughts. You should probably just delete them.
I appreciate your thoughts and comments.
1. You may be right about rubrics and creativity, but you don't provide
an argument. I think it is a good research question that someone should
explore, though. Perhaps a Master's thesis? However, my rationale is based
on observations over the years using different formats. In a course one year
I allowed the students to design their own evaluation protocol and criteria.
Talk about vague! The students did far more and at a higher quality than I
would have requested or required. They hated it though. I suspect the reason
was because it forced them to invest more time in the evaluation tasks. The
same thing occurs when I give very detailed descriptions of what I would be
looking for. Students invest a great deal of time and effort in trying to
fulfill every single detail identified, and that can be frustrating and counterproductive.
And they hate it. When I give some details and some models (which are sort
of like rubrics) I get fewer complaints, and very creative products from
Another problem with rubrics is it could force us to adopt a lower
grading system. The university expects students to be working in the average
range for the most part (i.e., C or B). If 90% of students complete a
project at level 4 that would translate into a C or B grade, where a
norm-referenced grading system is used. A ranking format rather than a
rubric format allows for more students with higher grades.
2. Re DeBono's hats, three things. First, if you, or others, had not had
the opportunity to struggle with dysfunctional groups you might not have a
sense of appreciation for functional strategies (whether it be DeBono or
Johnson and Johnson, or whatever). Second, if you knew how many times I have
heard this or that, or the other should be in the first couple of weeks
(e.g., development, multiculturalism, motivation, group dynamics,
cooperative learning, assessment, learning problems, behaviour management,
writing objectives, dealing with parents, and so on) you would have the
impression that everything should be in the first two weeks.
3. Re group presentations. Every year I rethink this process. Every year
less class time is allocated to these. Now it is typically 30 to 40 minutes.
I appreciate your problem sitting through some of them but here's my
concern. (1) The students who learn the most from them are the students who
prepare them (with respect to both form and content). This goes back to my
point in the first class: If you want to maximize your students' learning
get them to teach. Teaching takes practice. The music teacher and the parent
sits through a lot of bad violin sounds and piano sounds before the student
reaches a pleasant level. I think we as teachers need to acquire a level of
patience that will serve our students well, wouldn't you agree. (2) There
are some presentations that don't get shown each year and I'm always a
little distraught when these students approach me later and show their
obvious disappointment (even hurt) that theirs wasn't shown. (3) Remember
you sit through one class of these each week. I sit through five or six
classes. If anyone would have an incentive to change the format it would be
me, wouldn't you think? (4) Do you not find that you learn from watching the
mistakes that people make as well as from their successes? (5) Is learning
4. Re deleting your thoughts. No way! I loved them. In fact I would like
to post them and my response if I had your permission. I could post them
under your name, or your initials, or a pseudonym, or anonymously. ???
Have a good week!
have my permission to post this exchange of thoughts, maybe using only my
initials. Thank you for responding.
Please understand, I was not complaining about your course. It was
midnight on a Saturday and the world seemed crystal clear at that moment.
The entire rubrics/evaluation system in the school system needs
rethinking. My background is agricultural research, which involved a
Master's in plant pathology and countless days rating research plots for
disease severity. The way we evaluate student's work is not very different
from rating a research plot. This does not feel right. It does not address
the continuum of learning. Rubrics at least give the students some clue of
the process of evaluation and that is more fair.
I'll express my opinion and argue them any day...just ask my husband.
Thank you again.