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In my travels in the United States and Canada to conduct cooperative learning workshops, I have encountered almost everywhere some teachers who use some form of group grades.
These teachers have their students work in teams on a project, essay, presentation, or exam; they grade the final product; and that grade is given to each student on the team. In some locations, because of prior cooperative learning training, or because there is an emphasis on cooperative projects, many or even most teachers use group grades.
Every time I see group grades being used I am appalled. They are, in my view, never justified. Ever.
When I state my arguments against group grades, I get a variety of responses - everything from very strong support ("I am so glad you said that; I never felt comfortable doing it") to a range of counter arguments. It all depends on how thoroughly the teachers have structured their courses around group projects for which all students in the group are given identical grades. In some cases, I am in the uncomfortable position of advising teachers, who have spent years developing cooperative learning lesson plans, to stop doing something that they feel they do successfully. This makes me particularly uncomfortable: I like to see myself as someone who shows teachers alternative ways of doing things, not someone who barges in and tells teachers what not to do.
Group Grades: All in favor...
How do these teachers justify the use of group grades? Following are the most common arguments.
* The real-world argument. One mission of schools, these proponents say, is to prepare students for the real world. And in the real world, work teams are often rewarded for their collective contribution, while individual contributions are not necessarily assessed. This argument doesn't hold water: In the real world, there are many unfair practices-racial and age discrimination, unequal pay for equal work, and so on-but that doesn't justify unfair practices in the classroom.
* The …