All together now!

A question for you:

I am thinking about having each class collaborate on a class paper on Big Greek Epic.  (I’ve done collaborative papers only in a very small way, at 2YC, in groups of three or four, but I had a colleague who did it regularly with great success and I’ve always wanted to try his approach.)  The paper would be largely brainstormed, planned and assembled in class, with research, writing, and proofreading tasks outsourced to small groups within the class (e.g., “Group 4, your task for tomorrow is to discover what role X character plays in Books 5 and 6.”  They could then break that up in any way they liked).  The final grade would be something like 70% final paper (everyone gets the same), 10% assigned by me based on my sense of their contributions, 10% assigned by their groupmates and 5% assigned by the rest of the class.  (I need to play with these percentages.)

I realize that good planning is probably the determining factor in how well this works, so I’m asking for advice–from my fellow teachers and from you.  Have you done collaborative papers before?  What made them work or not work?  I think most people do these in small groups–how do you think it would work in a group of 15-20, with subgroups as described above?  I’d appreciate any thoughts you have!


2 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve never done anything along these lines, but I’m fascinated by the possibilities, and I’ll definitely be checking back here to see comments that other folks leave. I have really mixed feelings about group projects. On the one hand, I think there’s something potentially really valuable for students in seeing how fellow classmates do research, write, etc.; plus, there are fewer projects/presentations to grade, which is always a plus. On the other hand, the work is never done equally by the group members. Now, I’ve never tried having the rest of the group give grades for participation, which may be something I’ll try next time; do you have a sense that they might opt for the prisoner’s dilemma approach and have everyone give the whole group an A? I can’t help but think that’s what would happen in my girls’ school that values friendship and niceness so much.

    A couple of questions: Are you going to be the one doing the outsourcing? And are you going to put them into assigned groups or let them choose their own groups?

    (Also, your percentages add up to only 95%, by the way.)


  2. Posted by meansomething on April 27, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    These are great questions and issues you raise! I’m thinking that we will all write one paper together, and that I will be the project manager–this is in part because I regret not having had them all year to work on their paper-writing skills. (I, too, find that the work usually falls disproportionately on one or two when they work in smaller groups.) Part of the rationale is that Big Greek Epic is so big, and this will let us all work on a broader topic than if everyone had to slog through the whole book looking for evidence.

    I think that I can set up the assessment so that they actually have to rank one another on real criteria, and I can assign a few points to how carefully they do that part. Also, I’m thinking of requiring each person to write a brief reflection on the experience of writing a paper by committee. (And, I should add, I don’t think they will hesitate to identify some people as making more significant contributions than others. But it’s possible that they’ll succumb to the prisoner’s dilemma (hee).


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