Pitfalls of Collaboration

in Home Edders7 months ago

Collaborative Learning

Not so long ago, especially in rural areas, there were classrooms with one teacher responsible for teaching children aged between six and fifteen years of age. All these students were in one room being taught by the one teacher.

Those were the 'old days'. The days when discipline and manners were taught and practiced, politeness was the norm, and yes… literacy and numeracy was at its peak.

From the late 18th century onward I believe that the type of text adults and children read has declined somewhat. Instead of lengthy, educated and in-depth text these have been replaced by simpler and more picture format text. There were teachings of the ancients, Cicero, Plato, and Aristotle for example. There was Greek and Latin taught.

Sustained engagement, or sustained activity in students has become minimal in my opinion and has become more non-intellectual activity. In saying that I mean low-demand cognitive tasks with no face-to-face social contact such a social media.

I guess that's one reason Facebook, Twitter, and a lot of smaller posts on platforms such as PeakD are popular because these are generally not demanding texts, easy to read, quickly glossed over and doesn't demand sustained engagement (unless you're a curator and need to sift through a myriad of posts daily).


During the early years of formal schooling it was common if the teacher was busy and a younger student needed help that an older student was asked to pitch in and lend a hand for a little while. This was mainly due to the fact that there were not as many 'qualified' teachers available. The older student was never made responsible for teaching younger students, or students with learning difficulties, on a regular basis. This was the teacher's job!

As mentioned before, the eighteenth century education was mainly based on the classics where they would learn reading, writing, mathematics, Greek and Latin and often learn their history and geography. Our modern schooling system is failing to deliver such historical in-depth text and replaced it with our modern teachings. Our modern schooling system also doesn't exist of a broad range of age groups in one classroom anymore but rather places the children in their age brackets. Therefore creating the perfect setting for collaborative learning, and that's where some students either fail or excel.

Collaboration skills in school, also called group learning, are the skills students use when working with other students to produce or create something as a common goal and is marked by the teacher as part of the curriculum.


It is intriguing to know that these days outcomes based education states that collaborative activities or group activities MUST be achieved by all students. Most teachers found this a wonderful opportunity for students to get together and learn from each other as a team. Group learning encourages students to master skills from other students instead of learning from their adult teacher.

Homeschooling families also saw this as a great opportunity to develop social skills among peers because within a family setting you generally don't have children of the same age (unless you have twins, triplets etc). Homeschool families embraced the idea of getting together and providing group activities for their children, seeing only the beneficial side of this collaborative learning approach.

Regardless of which setting you look at... home education or public schooling... the social integration was covered, the age segregation gap lessened and this should have made everybody happy.

But has it?

How are high achievers coping with their continued efforts of being made more responsible for the students with learning difficulties? Is this one of the reasons so many bright children drop out of public school? I can hear some of you asking, what is group learning?

Group learning is
...students grouped together working usually on one project. In classroom situations the group mostly consists of a fast learner, a student with learning difficulties, and two average students.


Let me reiterate that:
1... fast learning student
1... student with learning difficulties or disabilities
2... average learning students

NOW... who would benefit the most from this arrangement? More likely the students with learning difficulties but it could hinder the high achiever because that student will be forced to learn at a slower pace... are you with me?

Did you know that group learning encourages peer dependence? Especially by the students with learning difficulties because they become dependent on others to do their work for them which could become a serious problem for the students with learning difficulties in the future.

So here's the thing that irks me!

High achievers are often placed in a responsible teaching position for getting low achievers to the end of the project, this should be the teachers job, not the job of another student. There is nothing wrong with students helping each other but some of the group learning projects that are currently conducted in the schooling system are so extensive that students with learning difficulties become fully reliant upon other brighter students.

You may ask if group work is as beneficial as what it is cracked up to be!

Teachers often give group assignments and group grades to cover certain outcomes specified by the outcomes based education system. Each student is usually given a different task. When these tasks are put together with the other assignments, they make up a complete project.

Not one single student will be required to do the entire assignment. That can be very beneficial in a factory on an assembly line... but school is not a factory.

I believe that cooperative learning does not accurately reflect student’s abilities and really deceives the low achievers, when allowing the fast learners to do all the work and rewarding the whole group the same.

The fast learners are robbed of their reward just the same as low achievers who are awarded for the little work done, receive a false self-confidence of their ability which could lead to potential misconceptions in future life.

So, does group grading cause dislike, dissatisfaction and impede high achievers?

Personally I believe that group grading could be troublesome and cause resentment between students. Students know that specific grades for individual work completed is fair, while the same grade for all is unfair.

I'm of the opinion it could impede high achievers progress and cause students with learning difficulties to rely on others to do their work. School drop out might be a serious predicament for high achievers who are not justly graded and restricted to excel in the present system, mental frustration will be exhibited, misbehaviour, drug use and even worse... despair or suicide.

Now ask me if it is fair to give an entire class or group the same grade?

In my opinion... NO!

I feel that group grading the high achievers, who often work harder and faster than the others receiving only the same grade, causes high achievers often to feel cheated, cynical, disadvantaged, discontented... name it what you like.

I believe they are often left with a 'no satisfaction' feeling and attitude.

The low achievers get the same grade, feel good about themselves and have a false sense of achievement for work they didn't really do. Deep down though they know this, but are usually contented to think that they did all right until they are placed in a situation where they have to perform, this is when the real problem begins for them.

So what happens next?

The low achievers finally pull through the education system, receiving their bit of paper stating they are competent to enter the workforce, obtain a job... but what happens next? Who is there to rely on to do the work for them!

Soon the boss works out they are not competent enough to perform the job set before them. These low achievers who received their certificates and passed the exams more than likely find themselves out of work or always between jobs.

Let’s look at what happened to the high achievers?

These students were bright, showed promise, they were creative, independent workers. Many of these were dumbed down and dropped out of school at an early age.

Those who had a driving self-esteem and were supported by caring families continued their studies outside of the current schooling system and acquired qualifications from other independent sources. They obtained jobs and are now esteemed in the workforce because they can do the job. They don't rely on others to do the work for them, they are independent, hard workers.

Other high achievers though, have felt so down trodden and are so disgusted by the system they become like the low achievers, having lost their drive for learning and have lost the self-esteem they once had. The desire to want to make something out of their lives has been driven away.

Once bright students now have become a burden to society because they can't get a job or worse... have lost the desire to want to work because they were taught (brain washed) in school that ALL get rewarded the same. Whether they worked harder or faster, it made no difference.

Now, here is the crux of the situation. I would like to know if home-educated children are robbed of their rewards.

I believe it is possible for it to happen even in the home learning environment. An older brother or sister can be kept back (dumbed down) unwittingly by the parents, to help with younger brothers or sisters. I have seen it happen first hand within my homeschooling community years ago on numerous occasions. In one family the older child was responsible for teaching her younger siblings. She couldn't leave home quick enough to escape the burdens placed on her. Responsibilities that should have been the mother's worry, not the oldest child.

Older children should be encouraged to participate in certain learning activities of their younger family members but they should NEVER be made responsible for regular teaching. This is the parent’s job!

My hope is that those responsible for teaching children will treat each child as an individual, not as a group, teaching each one suitably by working with their abilities and building upon them, rewarding each student according to their achievements.

Have group learning sessions... but don't overdo it as unschooling families.

So to come back on collaborative learning, what it basically means is... can your child perform in a group setting...

So... how does collaborative learning approach work for single parents or one child families? I believe it would have tremendous benefits for these children to get involved with other homeschool groups. Most certainly the child with no siblings is able to socialize with peers as well as children of different ages. It's the next best thing for those children and I would encourage parents to get together with others.

In saying that... according to research that Stine-Morrow, Parisi, Morrow, & Park, 2008 conducted, literacy skills, library skills, and classroom etiquette didn't really improve over the course of 5 months with high school students who were monitored while engaged in collaborative learning activities.

For homeschooling families it becomes a toss-up to integrate curriculum with other homeschool families and embrace programs to improve, develop and maintain skills that truly need more than one student. Group projects are to bring out the strengths and weaknesses of each group member so that further improvements can be made in those areas.

When certain group members don't pull their weight it is up to you as a homeschool parent-teacher to notice this and take immediate action to correct this behaviour. Students need to learn to take control of their learning and this needs to be taught and reinforced by you, their teacher.

You can read more on the theoretical basis for student ownership of learning from Enghag & Niedder, 2007.

Snellen H. Probebuchstaben zur Bestimmung der Sehschärfe. Utrecht, The Netherlands: P. W. van de Weijer; 1862




©️ ingridontheroad


I remember group projects from college physics. I hated it. As I recall, we had three decent students in my group and one slacker. The slacker couldn't even carry his weight by bringing in our papers. I don't think it was planned, but that is what happened.

In the "real world" of my library, we collaborate all the time, but it's usually a much more organic process instead of top-down assignments. Much healthier.

Collaboration in the workforce is what it is too. Most get paid the same (our reward) but not all work at the same pace. Often we find ourselves picking up the slack from a work colleague. Sometimes warranted but usually due to laziness from other workers. College is the same still. Some things don't change.

During the early years of formal schooling it was common if the teacher was busy and a younger student needed help that an older student was asked to pitch in and lend a hand for a little while. This was mainly due to the fact that there were not as many 'qualified' teachers available.

This is also true during the time of my studies. I do not know if it it still true today.

Depending on which country you live in, it's quite possible this still happens.

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I was interested to hear from my eldest that they have started doing the collaborative assignments in university as well, for some units. She's one of the fast learners and in order to make sure her own grade didn't drop (she needs certain scores to be able to go onto a PhD and get the scholarship she needs) she ended up doing the lions share and giving a very simple task to the one who didn't seem to want to do the work anyway. I'm with you on this and see a very real issue with it.

Yes Universities often do these group projects and if you as an individual rely on high distinctions because of scholarship for example it becomes very difficult. If they use the Bell Curve Grading system it's even more complex.