30 December 2011

Strengthening the Case Against Group Work

Results varied to some extent. At every institution studied, from research universities to small colleges, some students performed at high levels, and some programs fostered more learning than others. In general, though, two points come through with striking clarity. First, traditional subjects and methods seem to retain their educational value. Nowadays the liberal arts attract a far smaller proportion of students than they did two generations ago. Still, those majoring in liberal arts fields—humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics—outperformed those studying business, communications, and other new, practical majors on the CLA. And at a time when libraries and classrooms across the country are being reconfigured to promote trendy forms of collaborative learning, students who spent the most time studying on their own outperformed those who worked mostly with others. [Emphasis added.]

This confirms something I wrote a while ago, wherein I noted that group work is both retarded and retarding.  Quite simply, you cannot—indeed will not—master any subject or discipline as long as you can (and do) rely on someone else’s intelligence and knowledge.

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