Encouraging Independence, part II
I am attending, and presenting, at NERCOMP 2014 today. As I was checking Blackboard over the past couple of days and "grading" feedback pieces submitted by my students, I noticed an interesting trend in the feedback (and some emails sent by students) that reminded me of #Rhizo14 (week 2?): encouraging independence.
We are now in week 8 (of 13) in this course and students are put into groups of three from now until the end of the semester. They are each working on their own, independent, final project - but they are in peer review groups. The question that I got, from a lot of students, was "what are we supposed to do in our groups?" Of course, I am paraphrasing here, but the underlying current was: we've assigned groups, well now what? what do you want us to do? I should point out here that this is the 3rd round of groups in this course. The first two were self-selecting groups, so in the third one I stepped in to make sure that people were working with different partners.
While I have people working on a small project this week, the bulk of the work is really peer review at the end of the semester. So why pair people up now? Well, I honestly wanted to get people to know one another (and the courses they are developing) before the 12th week comes along and they start their peer reviews. If they get to know one another and their peer's projects, who knows? They might actually develop a peer support network to help them along with the project. Of course, I didn't articulate this when I assigned groups because I wanted to have people work organically together rather than focus on the work-production aspect of the course.
This was just an interesting thing to note, and "aha!" light bulb came up when I was reading these comments a few days back and rhizo came to mind. So. The question then becomes: have we de-skilled our students so much that they need to seek permission to work with one another? At the beginning of the semester should I make an announcement (or course banner?) that indicates "this is a collaboration zone! Work with one another freely, share ideas, help one another (and no, collaboration isn't cheating)"