I’m collaborating on a Project Based Learning unit with two other teachers in my teaching fellowship as initial exploration before doing a PBL workshop in the summer. We’ve just started doing some work on group contracts to keep members accountable and responsible. There are a few ideas that I love, and some that I find interesting but haven’t made my mind up about.
I love the idea of groups creating their own contracts (with support/guidance from teacher when appropriate) because I am all for students working towards personal responsibility. I think group effective work is a good discussion to have and can be a very beneficial learning experience. In the materials we are using, the example recommends having a total amount of points for the project that the group then distributes how they see fit. They must unanimously agree on the distribution of points. I really like this idea because I’ve personally been in groups where I end up doing all the work because I care about my grade when others do not. I wonder though, what happens when students don’t agree.
I also like the idea of group members defining roles at the start of the project. One worry though, is will the roles make them work at different times within the sequence of the project. Will the result be more like a relay race, rather then a unit working together throughout the duration of the project?
I’m interested most in the concept of firing group members. If a member of a group is not pulling their weight, it makes sense that they should not get credit for other students’ work. This could also save the issue of not reaching an agreement about points distribution. However, what happens when a member is fired? I worry it might be especially difficult to engage a student who is kicked out of a group and now works alone. Does this option set students up for failure or does it help make sure they don’t get pushed through the course by their peers without any personal contribution?