This week's book giveaway is in the OO, Patterns, UML and Refactoring forum. We're giving away four copies of Refactoring for Software Design Smells: Managing Technical Debt and have Girish Suryanarayana, Ganesh Samarthyam & Tushar Sharma on-line! See this thread for details.
I'm taking a TOGAF (architecture) class this week. The instructor and I have different views on group work. We've done group work for brainstorming/opinions/creating templates/type work. I undersatnd why we are doing this. It has some value. (The amount of value depends on your group, but the instructor can't help that.)
Then we did a walkthru of a sample certification question. Everyone read and then we discussed as a full room and then the answer was presented. The instructor was part of this discussion so it was more like a guided walkthru. I also understand the value in this.
Then we got a sample certification question to do independently. So far so good. Practicing thinking. Then we got split up into groups of 2-3 to "discuss what we think the right answwer is and why." My teammate and I both got it wrong. I didn't find this part to be of value. If one of us actually knew the answer, it could be seen as a "teach the other person" type thing. Then the instructor handed us a paper with the answer/explanation. He gave us less time with that answer sheet before collecting it than we had for the group discussion. I said something and we got longer.
The instructor tried to explain to me why the group discussion/speculation was valuable. I'm not getting it. And I don't think there is anything he could say at this point that would. I'm too frustrated. (There's been a couple other teaching style things that have bothered me over the week - so I'm not coming from a place where I can just take it on faith.) So trying here. Can anyone explain a different way why the group speculation is useful?
More progress. The instructor changed the format based on feedback to one that was much better:
1) individually do question
2) small group discussion (another teammate suggested combining two groups so the group was larger - which also helped.) - this served as a baseline of what everyone thought with a little discussion
3) hand out answer
4) small group discussion about answer - this was valuable. And step 2 got us ready to do it.
I've experienced some truly terrible "group work" on commercial training courses, but it's also often a useful technique for learning.
My wife teaches occasional specialist courses for legal translators, and as a language teacher she always uses a lot of group exercises. It helps people to learn and apply new ideas actively instead of being passive recipients of the instructor's ideas, helps people to discover and explore different aspects of the problem together, and also helps to reveal gaps or difficulties more quickly. An instructor asking "does everybody understand?" will rarely reveal the people who are having problems, and if people are working alone it's easy for them to hide their difficulties from the rest of the group or the instructor or simply not realise they're having problems at all. A good instructor will often circulate around the groups during group exercises to pick up on how people are doing so they can address any problems in the next session. It also takes the pressure off the instructor, introduces variety, and reduces TTT - "teacher talking time" (which is not the same as learning time) - in favour of requiring students to work actively instead.
But it can be frustrating if you're stuck in a group that can't work productively like this, for whatever reasons. And - like pair programming - it's not necessarily the most efficient way of reaching a solution to a specific problem.
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:But it can be frustrating if you're stuck in a group that can't work productively like this, for whatever reasons. And - like pair programming - it's not necessarily the most efficient way of reaching a solution to a specific problem.
Yeah. Oddly I like pair programming. And I did like some of the group work. It tended to match what you described - actual exercises. Other than the cert question, there was one other point, I asked to do it as a full room and not a group. The second exercise of the day. With the first exercise, my entire group (myself included) had no idea what was going on. With the cert stuff, I think my frustration was based on "it doesn't matter what WE think is the answer, it matters what the exam thinks is the answer."