individual -v- group work

individual -v- group

Today i’ve finished an assignment which i’ve had about three weeks to complete. 90% of it was done today. Why? Deadlines of course…

Oh Shit Mode

Yes, the deadline for this assignment is tomorrow which means “oh shit” mode takes over. And it’s that mode which tends to get me focused and working hard… the way i should be all the time but because life isn’t full of deadlines, the reality is i’m not focused and working hard 100% of the time.

Some people can motivate themselves to complete things on sight and it’s just like a shoot on sight policy – bang and it’s over – no time to even think about slacking off. That’s a great way to be and i can be like that if i’m interested in whatever it is i’m shooting.

Ritz #6
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lee Huai Tu

However if i get an assignment i’m not interested in, it will be put on a to do list. At least i actually put it on a to do list, i suppose that’s why i’m still in college… i complete the stuff i have no interest in. Even if i don’t care about it, i’ll pretend i care about it for a few hours and then rehash language which i’ve subconsciously picked up in class. That’s what gets me through assignments, or more specifically assignments & subjects i don’t like.

We’re too smart

One criticism i’d have of myself & education in general is that it seems to be far too easy to just go through the motions and pick up marks. I’ve been taught or trained to look at marking schemes and strategically approach exams. That started in secondary school.

At the time i though, wow, that’s actually pretty clever – it makes sense. Put more effort in for the ‘big’ questions, less effort in to the ‘smaller’ questions. And in terms of passing exams and getting points and degrees and what not, that basic tactic has served me well. And of course i’m not the only one who has been taught to think like this, we all are… from secondary school on.

Strategic planning: an oxymoron?
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Now, i’m beginning to see a major flaw in that approach… we’re being too clever and focusing on points and marks… not on learning the actual material. There is a big difference… in this assignment for example i highlighted key words in the question and build my answer around those keywords, using headings and borrowing phrases from the question to keep me on topic. But at the end of it all have i learned anything about the topic in question? Yes, possible…. i certainly know more than when i started but i’ll forget all of it over the next few days because i’m just not interested in it.

Group work makes me learn more

What i’m beginning to find is that group work… be it projects or presentations certainly isn’t ‘easier’… but i find i learn a lot more… i remember a lot more. I remember more about a presentation i did a week ago in a group than i do from the assignment i’m just after completing tonight.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Pirillo

I’m not particular interested in either subject so i can only chalk it down to group work -v- individual work and i think those marking scheme tactics play a huge role too. When alone, i tend to focus on nailing all the points being asked whereas in a group i can pick and choose what points to look at and the other members can do the same. Because we’re all at the same level, they can explain what they’re points are all about and vice versa.

Nothing new

Of course this ‘observation’ of mine isn’t anything new… i’m pretty sure there are studies out there which prove this point too but i’m too lazy to go and find any, i’m not interest enough in the subject 😉 However i just feel there’s something ‘not right’ about the way we approach exams. Up until secondary school, i never remember approaching tests strategically and in terms of learning, i’d say i was ‘happier’. Throughout secondary school, it’s all about results and it’s the same in college.

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It’s not that i don’t enjoy learning either or have stopped enjoying learning – in my own time, under no pressure from anyone but myself, i’m constantly learning and getting in to iphone development is a classic example of that.

Maybe it’s all our problem as students, maybe it’s up to us to change our attitude and not be so strategic in exams, but if we do that, we lose marks and no student wants to drop marks if they can help it. I feel it’s ‘just not right’ and unfortunately i can’t give many reasons why or indeed come up with better solutions to current exam structures. Apart from having more group work of course inside college…

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