Rethinking an Old Paradigm

Conclusions drawn in Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary written and directed by Greg Whiteley and produced by TEDTalks founder Ted Dintersmith, won’t surprise students or the people paid to teach them. The model we use for the school day comes from nineteenth-century Germany, where schools turned education into something like an assembly line: English in one room, history in another, chemistry here, and biology down there. Such distinctions can be useful. They can also be arbitrary. 

However, that’s old news. The more challenging conclusion drawn by the film is that we need to rethink the way we assess student progress. The last half of the film focuses on the idea because the 21st-century workplace depends on people working together in teams, education should assess the way students contribute to projects together rather than depending on quizzes, exams, and standardized tests where students work alone.

Consider examining those ideas below. Does the 21st-century workplace depend on teamwork? What happens to the way we grade when we focus on the results of group work rather than individuals? How might this improve some aspects of education? What could get lost if we adopted it?

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9 Responses to Rethinking an Old Paradigm

  1. Gracie Rowland says:

    I believe that teamwork is a vital and necessary part of every successful person’s life. Nothing can be achieved alone. Life is not a race but a hike, and everyone needs someone to hike with. The American education system almost completely disregards a student’s need to develop the ability to work well with others. I don’t love group work. It can be difficult at times. But I recognize the need for it. I realize that more can be achieved together if everyone works cohesively. As long as individual accountability is maintained, I believe that learning to complete projects with others should play an integral part in our education system.

  2. Alexandria Kerr says:

    By now it is practically common knowledge that the US education system if quite flawed. For instance, many people (including myself) believe that our education system is much more focused on memorization of facts opposed to actually absorbing the knowledge. From a young age we are taught to read and then immediately spit out facts without learning why we need to know these things. However, I do not believe the solution to the problems with the education system is to implement a group project grading system. I believe that implementation of a system like this would have consequences such as: decreased independence and decreased individuality. Having students always be in a group will cause them to become dependent on one another; at first this may not seem that bad, but this could cause students to not be able to solve problems for themselves. Students also may lose a sense of individuality with this system because they would not be able to make their own decisions due to having to constantly needing to reach a group consensus. I believe that occasional group projects are fine, but always being in a group is not.

  3. Ethan Hill says:

    Most scenarios in the modern workplace include at least some teamwork-based task. Because of this I think teaching should be more group based than it is in current schools today. Although, we should not discredit individual learning as it teaches critical thinking when in pressured environments. Overall, we should focus more on team based education while not disregarding individual learning all together.

  4. Samantha says:

    Almost all of the 21st-century workplace depends on teamwork. It may not be direct, but the marketers for a company still work in a team with the manual laborers to make a company run smoothly. The major downside to grading on the result of group work is that there is nothing to tell how much each person contributed. Also, there is a concern that people will get blended, just like they are with the current school system. Ideally, the school system should be designed to let people reach their full potential in the area of their passion. However, making everything focused on group work removes the individuality of students. In addition, competition is a major driving factor in school, without individualization, there is no competition. I believe there should be a balance of group work and individual work. It could improve education as a whole though in the aspect that it will prepare students for the real world. They’ll learn to work together with people, providing with social skills that they may need in the future. I feel like if group work was the center of education, the grading would become more like a participation grade, rather than an accurate grade. It will all become more lackadaisical and laid back. This could seriously negatively impact the quality of education that students receive.

  5. Tejus Kotikalapudi says:

    No public workplace puts the workload entirely on one person in this century. There is a reason employers look for diversity when making a team in the workplace. Often, it is hard for one to put themselves in another person’s shoe and get a new perspective on an idea so diversity of thought is important. When an educator grades based on group work, it encourages students to share their ideas without fear of someone else “stealing” his or her ideas. In addition to increasing the quality of work in the classroom overall, it would also encourage a better social environment. However, school can not focus entirely on group work because solo work is integral to making a person a critical thinker that can formulate his or her own thoughts. If solo work was phased out at young ages, the diversity of thought that makes group work so effective would not be present. The most effective compromise would be to introduce a more group work oriented curriculum as students get older to acclimate them to the workforce but still give them time when they’re young to form their own academic personality.

  6. Shelby Tisdale says:

    Success in life, in school, and in the workplace comes down to individual work ethic and ability. While learning to work well with others is indisputably a valuable skill, assessing student progress based on group work would be a flawed approach to America’s educational system. The modern workplace is a place of balance; it is composed of unique and diverse individuals supplementing one another’s strengths and counteracting one another’s weaknesses. Group projects lack this balance; students who are more proficient at the subject at hand end up taking on the burden of completing the task while other students profit. In order to accommodate individual needs and push each student to fulfill his or her potential, America needs to adopt an approach of individually-paced learning. Students should be given remedial attention in areas in which they are struggling and should be challenged further when they demonstrate mastery at a given subject or skill. The educational environment should be celebratory of individuality and a place where trial and error is addressed as a necessary part of growth, eliminating a focus on the negativity of labels of success and failure. A student’s success in school is indicative of individual initiative, which defines success in the workplace and in life. Assessing proficiency solely on group activities would be inequitable and detrimental to the learning process and students’ futures regarding social interaction in the workplace.

  7. Aja C. says:

    There are a multitude of pros and cons when it comes to educators grading based on the ability to work with a group. In future years when we’re grown and being geniuses in our career fields, we will have to work with people even if we don’t want to. Grading based on teamwork is a good idea if we want to ensure that student understand the importance of cooperating with other people. But if I am being completely honest, getting rid of individual tests and quizzes is not the best idea to ensuring success in college and even in a career, depending on the work field. For me, being sleep deprived from studying for those biology and chemistry quizzes/tests is the only reason I understand the workings of a cell and gas laws now. If I knew that I would just be getting a grade based on how well I work with others, I may have a tendency to not study and not realize my responsibilities within the team, and this could easily be the case for any other student. Let’s say there’s a student who wants to be a chemist, but this student also doesn’t study outside of class because they know they’ll only be getting a grade based on how well they work in a team. This future chemist may know how to work with others in a lab, but they won’t know how to determine reaction rates. The idea of ensuring that students are successful when working with teams is valid, but making sure that students are still getting the knowledge they need must be implemented alongside it.

  8. Sidharth Nagarajan says:

    Working as a team, a pack, or a community is natural to most living things. This includes humans. When working together with a common goal in mind, humans can achieve amazing things. The problem is getting a group of goal oriented, hard working human beings to work towards a common goal and work in near perfect harmony. That is why team work should be integrated into classes for all ages. This doesn’t mean all grades should be project based. If this is the case, we will see the common trend of the smarter and harder working member to do all the work. This is the opposite of the desired goal of a unified team. Students should still be individually tested on material in each subject, problem solving skills (in real life, math, and science), and essay/report writing. The potential for future college graduates would be tenfold if they knew how to effectively work in a team before they applied to jobs. The current workplace is heavily dependent on teamwork. An office functions like an assembly line with different divisions of a company working towards a certain goal united by heads of divisions who are then united by CEO’s.

  9. Andrew Ignatius says:

    The 21st century does demand teamwork today, because more and more people are going into STEM fields where research, teamwork, and communication are utterly essential. Without it, they would surely fail! There are many ways that we can improve certain aspects of education, and the primary aspect of education that we can improve would be the time that students are required to go to class, and how education is presented to the learner by the teacher. If we can improve this we can certainly make learning and the education system better for everyone!

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