On the last night of the semester when the graduate class was to turn in their thematic unit the male member of the collaborative team verbally explodes over the lack of work of the female member. He uses very defaming language and rants loudly his anger to the instructor. The female member had not yet arrived in the classroom. When she does arrive she is shocked to hear her partner so angry with her; the male had not expressed any of his dissatisfaction prior to the explosion in the classroom. The instructor questions how collaborative work can be accounted for so that such inequities aren’t the finale to a project. Though the story of the unequal work accusation initiated out of a graduate class, the reflective group chose that situation to work with because the group recognized that the problem also persists in all age groups. The instructor met with the collaborative teams three times during the semester. Each time the issue of team relationships was confronted. Each time this group reported that all was happening satisfactorily between them. They were meeting, they were dividing the work up and they were completing their task on schedule. Following the explosion the last night and after the female member arrived, the instructor talked with each member individually. The male could not elaborate beyond that fact that “the b----” did not do her fair load of work. The female reported that the final meeting was set on one of her work nights and the male refused to compromise any other time to meet and that he offered her no access to the disc on which the project was typed. The instructor asked each member to turn in what work they each had completed. The female was at a disadvantage in that all her previous contributions were on a disc that the male member had and would not provide her a copy. The male member turned in the completed project, including what the female member had contributed. It was the decision of the instructor, after receiving the draft copies of what the female member could find, to give both members the same passing grade. The instructor also challenged both members, but most emphatically the male member, to consider their professional integrity. The lesson to be learned was that many times in the future each will be unhappy with what a colleague will do and they may not give themselves the privilege to publicly defame that colleague. Similar behavior as happened that last night would be cause for the male teacher to be challenged or possibly threatened with a lawsuit.
How does a teacher monitor collaborative work? What can a teacher do to learn of a group's composition, personality issues, work ethic etc?
Theories behind practice:
The “theory of education” that caused the dilemma for each member of the reflective group was that of giving students age appropriate choices in which they work with on collaborative projects. The hypotheses focused on control strategies that leave as much freedom as possible for students to have a choice of partners. The older the students, the more experience they have of collaborative work and the behavioral profile of the group factor the degree of choice. Providing groups self-evaluation forms that ask for individual members to rate themselves and the other members was one strategy offered. Another scoring device was shared but not understood by the group. Cooperative learning strategies were also reviewed.
Impact on others:
Collaborative work must be taught before being assigned. Students of any age (but especially pre-service professionals) need to be taught "how, when & where" to appropriately express their conflicts. The maturity of groups determines "how" tight the teacher has to monitor. If students are not open or honest about their feelings the instructor has little control in preventing the inequalities.