Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Group and Individual Accountability

By Lorna Franke, McCarroll Middle School - Texas History

An issue I have experienced in my own classroom, as our district began using the PBL model, was that only some of my students were giving it their all for their group to be successful on group projects. In other words, one or two students per group were doing all of the work, and the entire group, including those who weren't working, was getting credit. I had some upset students, angry parents, and personal frustration about this, because I didn't know how to make them all want to give 100%. I didn't know how to hold them accountable. No matter what I did, whether it was walking around the room and getting them on task, or pulling them out individually and as a group to refocus them, nothing was helping those who weren't motivated to become more into working for the group.

I was frustrated. I went to my administrative team, and we discussed some ways that I could improve this in my classroom, but I left the conversation, still wondering how I was going to get 100% participation from all of my students, no matter their learning style. I had tried placing them in groups where students had different abilities, learning/leadership styles, and levels of learning. Nothing was helping. Then…my principal sent me a magic article from "the edupreneur" about using contracts in the PBL classroom. It changed our classroom. I have pasted the link below:

I went back to my class the next day with a task. I asked them what they thought about our productivity groups, why they weren't working as well as they should be, and what we should do about it. They had the same idea I did. We wrote a contract. They came up with the terms. They came up with consequences for breach of contract. They did it all. 

We then set up procedures for class:
  1. Every day, groups will log the work done by each member of the group. If someone didn't participate as much as everyone else, they lose 10 points for that day. 
  2. At the end of the week, the logs will be turned in, and each person will receive their weekly grade. They can make as much as 100 points for the week and as low as 60.
After signing the contract and completing the work logs every week for a few months now, I have seen a huge increase in productivity, as well as a large improvement in group member participation. My formerly unhappy parents are happy with the accountability for the group members, and my students are able to accept responsibility when they are not participating. So…my moral to this story is this…contracts in any cooperative learning classroom are the way to go. :)

You can download a PDF of my contract HERE

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