Journal Entry # 2
“The key to maximizing our talents is for us all to put ourselves in a zone of stimulation that is right for us [whether we are extroverts or introverts]. Here is where the bias comes in: our most important institutions (schools, workplaces) are designed mostly for extraverts.” (Cain, 2012). And, of course, not everyone is an extrovert. Reporting what experts say, Cain adds that “we cannot be in a group of people without instinctively mimicking the opinion of others”.
All these facts put together mean that a huge waste of talent takes place in our society
As Cain mentions that 1 out of 2 or 3 people are introverts, just like me, many people who watched this video will either feel relieved or will reinforce the idea that they have been misunderstood all their life. That includes not only school, but any learning situations they may have encountered, because group work has been so encouraged or required.
I agree so much with Cain when she says that “at school, we need to teach students to work together but we also need to teach them to work on their own.”
One of the reasons we encourage students to learn how to work in groups is that this is the reality of most workplaces; students need to be prepared. Now, why is it that group work is so encouraged at work? I am not going to try to answer this question; I’d rather try to identify what are the other reasons that group work is encouraged for learning and is it overused.
I believe that the development of group work in teaching/learning started with one of the key principles of constructivism: learning involves a cognitive conflict that is encouraged during interactions involving concrete experiences and dialogues with the teacher or other learners. As Merriam et al. (2007) assert that “Much of our adult learning theory is constructivist in nature.” (p.293), we can conclude that it is right to apply this key principle of constructivism to adult education.
While demonstrating that learning communities are the basis of “optimal, engaged classroom environments”, Barkley (2010) says also that “participating in the collaborative activities that are a fundamental component of a learning community also promotes active learning.” (p.25). Active learning being also one of the key principles of constructivism, putting all the elements together should ensure that learning is taking place.
Bergin (2014) doesn’t hesitate to start his article Study Groups Supercharge Learning
by saying that “The research is clear: many students learn better in groups.” However, in the Hattie Effect Size List (2009), cooperative learning is at a pretty low level. This last result may be confusing for most of the instructors who have been following the idea that collaborative or group activities are very beneficial for the learners.
What I am doing with all these results? First of all, I’d like to draw one lesson from Cain’s TED Talk. That is: to put our students in a zone of stimulation that is right for them. That being said, as an introvert, I know very well that if I am not forced to do some group activities, I won’t do any; however, when I am forced to complete group work, I do get a lot from it. This is true from discussions or any group activities but even more so when I study online. The reason for my high preference for online learning (besides the fact that I can learn from my own location) is that I have some time to think of what to do, to say, and to write before I join the group. From my point of view, this is the key point: any learner needs some time to reflect on what was said by the teacher, on a question that was asked or on how to solve a problem. I believe that extroverts are able to articulate their thought before they are organized and to think out loud. However, I am not sure that it is very productive. My professional experience was to work with teams made up of developers and a project manager. I cannot imagine anyone attending a work meeting without having prepared his/her work first. In fact, this is the very objective of the work team: to put everyone’s contribution together in order to create a whole project. The main reason people have bad experiences with group work as students is that not everybody dedicates the same amount of effort to their studies. Therefore the product of group work can reflect the work of only few members of the group, which is not right. (I have never had a bad group experience except in some discussions, but Danielle, in the forum Group Work, points out “Why Group Work has such a bad rap”).
I have more to say about Cain’s saying that “we cannot be in a group of people without instinctively mimicking the opinion of others”. In the part of his article called Taking a Chance, Clapper (2010) talks about what Brookfield referred to as the “imposter” and here is what she says: “we may not ask questions or provide input that may be outside what others may be thinking because we do not want others to think that we slid through the system somehow and are not really supposed to be there in that learning session”. It may mean that the only people who are trying not to fall into the instinctive behaviour of mimicking other people’s ideas may feel badly about it. However, as teachers we believe that the whole idea of sharing ideas is to get different ones.
To summarize my interpretive part:
- The discovery that group activities can be very beneficial for the learning process may make teachers overuse it.
- As instructors, we have to make sure that we provide our students with the learning environment that suits them. However, introverts will never do any group activities if we don’t “force” them, even though they can benefit from them.
- We have to provide some time for students to reflect on a problem as individuals before asking the students to join a group activity.
- Since introverts hesitate to join a group activity because they don’t feel they need this stimulation, we have to encourage them and assure all the students that their ideas are not only welcome but needed.
I didn’t think I overused group activities in my courses, but I may be offering too many whole group activities without giving the students a chance to think about it by themselves first. I know that when I ask them to do small group activities, I ask if they need some time first by themselves and some do while others don’t. I am planning to give this opportunity in every kind of group activity.
I am thinking also of giving some examples of how beneficial a group activity can be; either some of my personal examples or some results that other students have come with in the past in order to encourage students who are reluctant to participate. This is something I have never thought of doing. I may try to choose examples that show explicitly that people who have ideas that are different from those of others are very useful in order to improve everybody’s knowledge.
Finally, I will keep working on asking extroverts to make sure they allow introverts to express themselves. I have some difficulty with that in almost every course I teach. I am thinking now that talking openly about it may help.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Technique. A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Bergin, M. (2014). Chariot Learning, 08 September 2014. Study Groups Supercharge Learning. Retrieved from http://chariotlearning.com/study-groups-supercharge-learning/
Cain, S. (2012). The Power of Introverts. TED2012. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts
Clapper, T. (2010). Academia.edu, Pailal Newsletter, July 2010, Volume 3 Issue 2. Creating the safe Learning Environment. Retrieved from: http://www.academia.edu/1180264/Creating_the_safe_learning_environment
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: a comprehensive guide (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Murphy-Clare, D. (2014). Forum discussion for PIDP 3250 (VCC) Discussion “Why does Group Work have such a bad rap?” Thursday, 9 October 2014, 10:04 PM