Lauri Executes the IML

Engel’s total time spent writing IML: 15 mins on 9-3-10
LDG’s total time spent realizing draft: 40 min on 9-8-10

Reference Check Your College Study Group 

When college programs rely so heavily on work done in study groups, choosing a group and its individual members can make or break the learning experience.  Most students have to choose a group up front, facing the nightmarish possibility of getting stuck, left at the mercy of the laziest members of the group.

If I were a professor, the first day of class would include the announcement that everyone will be responsible for doing group work, with group rosters due in the middle of the following week.  After lecturing a bit on hiring and performing reference checks, I would then post notes on the upcoming week’s material, giving students a chance to prepare content-related questions and interview each other as they form their groups.  Students would be warned, “If I were you, I’d get a head start today,” encouraging them to start immediately in recruiting and checking references.  Students would provide references from the groups they’ve worked with in the previous two years.  (Freshmen could produce references from high school groups or special projects.).  References would be questioned about the candidate’s work ethic, past performance, special knowledge and honesty.

What is likely to happen is this:  the “A player”, i.e. committed students and overachievers, will get started immediately, quickly assembling a group made up of other A players.  The “B player” will give it a half-hearted try, putting some effort into it, maybe delaying a little.  The “C players” in the class will skip the recommended process, falling into groups of like-minded students on the last day, when there is very little chance of finding an A student.

My prediction:  in the end, the powerhouse A groups will do the best work and get the top grades in the class.  The groups dominated by B players will get Bs and Cs, and the groups of C players will get Cs, Ds and Fs.

Is this fair?  Absolutely.  In fact, this is, perhaps, the most fair system possible in the current environment:

  • It gives all students equal warning about what they need to do.
  • With class notes available before groups are formed, students can make informed decisions about the group dynamic and better assess individual strengths and weaknesses, within the context of the course materials.
  • All students are offered fair warning and clear suggestions about how to go about selecting individuals for an effective group.

From Day 1, the results will depend primarily on the effort students put into crafting their own experience, and the choices they make.  They will also learn a bonus lesson about the importance of hiring and selective recruitment.  Students faced with this process in school will have a strong idea of how to proceed, and enjoy more opportunities to practice their interviewing skills.  In the real world, if you want to get to the top, you must know how to choose the helpers and partners who will help you get there.  Addressing this aspect of college life in a professional manner will be better prepared as they start their careers.

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