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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

About Learning!

Professors are sometimes frustrated with the amount of effort demonstrated in assignments.  I hear about the lousy test scores, students not reading directions carefully, students not proofreading papers, and the list goes on.  I think students underestimate the amount of time required to learn new ideas. 

I want you to think about a time that you were learning something to play a musical instrument, how to play a video game, how to dance or sing, how to play football and the players and positions for the NFL....  If you think about your favorite past-times, I am certain it took you longer than a few minutes to understand and become proficient in the past-time.  How much time and effort is required for you to enjoy these past-times?  Even moving into a new work environment requires time for you to learn new information about the work you are expected to do.

A colleague once told me a story about her son.  She was watching him do his math homework and he was getting angry because it was taking so long.  When she looked at the clock, she realized he had the expectation that the answer should not take more than one minute to calculate!  If this is your thinking, it might be time to become more realistic in how long it takes to learn new things.  Yes, learning is hard.  Sometimes you will have to reread material, recalculate math problems, proofread, go to a study lab or group, or talk to your professor to be successful.  All of this takes time.

Learning and thinking is hard-work!  When I am doing intense thinking/learning, I am physically a good way.  I have a sense of accomplishment when I conquer a tough assignment.  When my students finish their degrees, I want them to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners..a true sign of an educated person.  Unfortunately, it take time and work to achieve!  I hope you approach your studies with the intensity and commitment you devote to your past-times!

Why Professors Assign Group Work

I hear it every term from students, "I don't like group work."  This does not come as a surprise to me.  Group work is more difficult because you have to interact with other people who might not share your ideas on how the work should be organized, commitment to learning or understanding of the assignment.

So, why do professors assign group work?  Many professors recognize that a college education is more then having students learn the content of their discipline, especially undergraduate.  This is one reason many Universities require students to take courses across many disciplines for their undergraduate degrees.  Professors understand that there are a variety of skills that are necessary to be successful in the workplace.  Certainly, assignments will relate to the content of the discipline and course, but other skills such as communication skills, critical thinking skills, conflict resolution skills are implicit in ALL group work regardless of the discipline.

In creating  group assignments, I think about the developmental opportunities for students.  In working in the private sector for some time, I realized the importance of excellent communication skills in the workplace.  If students are unable to communicate substantial ideas to other students, they will struggle in the workplace to do the same.  Many of the skills inherent in group work are the skills employers value.  You may one day be working with colleagues from around the world without everyone being physically present in one location. More and more work assignments require people who can complete projects online with virtual groups.   

We will address how to be an effective group member and what to do about non-participating group members, common issues when doing group work, in a  later blog.