Group Work

It is a reality that, upon graduation, students will be thrown into a work-world that frequently employs the model of a team to accomplish critical tasks. The purpose of Group Work in this class is to prepare students for this reality. This means that instead of sitting passively and taking notes, students will spend the majority of their class time working on exercises related to course content that are also designed to exercise and develop philosophical skills and critical thinking abilities. This will sometimes be done individually but more frequently together in small groups. Membership in the groups will be randomized to help students prepare for professional life, where persons are often thrown into groups of strangers and given a common task to perform. While students work, the instructor will answer questions that students have, offer advice, and supply coaching to help students complete the tasks. The tasks themselves will vary considerably but will always include a critical thinking component.

As in the working world, each group will be composed of members that have individual responsibility for performing in well-defined roles. Depending on attendance, students will sometimes need to perform multiple roles for the same task. This, again, mirrors what happens in the working world when one's co-workers are absent. The job still has to get done. The roles in our groups are:

The Reporter

The Reporter is responsible for communicating the results of the group's work to the rest of the class at the time designated by the instructor. The reporter should know the group's work well enough to answer questions about it, should any arise.

The Writer

All group work will be accompanied by a worksheet with specific instructions for the day's task. The writer is responsible for the finished writing on the worksheet. Clear, coherent, and professional communication for an educated but general audience is what the Writer strives to produce.

The Organizer

All tasks are time-sensitive. It is the Organizer's responsibility to keep the group on task so that the job can be done thoroughly and well before time expires.

The Proofreader

The Proofreader provides quality control for the written output of the group's work. The Proofreader works with the Writer to ensure that the group turns in written work of the highest possible quality in terms of grammar, word choice, organization, and spelling.

The Evaluator

The Evaluator provides quality control for the substantive output of the group's work. This means that the Evaluator makes sure that the group's work is accurate as regards details of the text it connects with, or in cases where the exercises are aimed more at skill building, that the group's results demonstrate a clear understanding of what is being asked of the group and a sincere effort to complete the task wtih a high degree of success.

Success in group work is primarily a matter of how well one does the job one has within the group. That means that though you will be working in groups, you will be evaluated on an individual basis depending on your own contribution to the group effort. Below is a rubric for success in each of these roles. Over the course of the term it is expected that students will act in each of these roles at least once. The more positions one can play, the more valuable a team member one is.

Evaluation Rubric for Individual Contributions to Group Work, By Role

The Reporter

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
The student relates the results of the group’s work in a clear, coherent and professional manner at a clearly audible volume, speaking to the class and not just to the instructor, making eye contact with the audience and without reading. When asked questions the speaker is ready with a prompt and appropriate answer. The student relates the results of the group’s work in a clear and coherent manner, but may address remarks to the instructor rather than to the group, or depend too heavily on reading the group’s work rather than presenting it, or may be unable to give satisfactory answers to follow up questions. The student gets across the general gist of what the group’s results were, but may be overly conversational, vague, or unclear. The student may only read, and may not be able to answer questions about the group’s work. In addition to one or more flaws listed under “Adequate”, the student reports only his or her own work, or is unable to give a clear account of what the group’s results were. The student may be reading or speaking too softly for the group to hear. The student refuses to report the group’s work, or is so vague, informal or incoherent in speaking that it is unclear how the group spent its time. The student may be absent from the classroom at the time group reports are made.

The Writer

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
The student writes the group’s answer in clear, complete, well-formed sentences of English. The answers are efficiently written, all words are spelled correctly, and the handwriting submitted is clearly legible, without scratch-outs or other blemishes. As under “Excellent”, save that there may be one or two minor errors that do not obstruct the group’s meaning. As under “Good”, save that there are multiple errors, some of which may introduce problematic vagueness or ambiguity into the group’s answer. The writing may be overly conversational in tone, or rely too heavily on cliches or “pop-culture” sayings to be suitable for professional use. Complete sentences are not used, the writing may be not be legible throughout the answer. Grammatical mistakes, inapt word choices, or spelling errors may obstruct meaning. Very little to no coherent English sentences are given. The handwriting may be completely illegible.

The Organizer

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
At the time it is turned in, the group’s work is not just complete on the sheet provided, but is done in an exemplary fashion, e.g. in a way that gives attention to important details, with reasons being given in support of the group’s results, etc. The group’s work is exemplary in some areas but not in all of them. Some tasks may only have minimal answers. The group’s work is at least minimally complete on all points. No part of the assignment has been left undone, even if answers want for detail or justification. One or more components of the assigned task have been left undone, or is not done on the sheet provided for the work. The group has nothing to turn in at the end of class.

The Proofreader

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
The quality of the written English of the group’s answer is beyond reproach. Word choices are apt, no grammatical mistakes have been made, and all words are spelled correctly. The writing is clear, concise, coherent, and professional in tone. The quality of the written English of the group’s answer exceeds expectations, but still contains minor infelicities in grammar, word choice, or spelling. The writing may ramble a bit but is otherwise clear and professional in tone. The written English of the group’s answer is passable. There may be errors in grammar, word choice, or spelling that introduce problematic vagueness, ambiguity, or other unclarity, but in the main it is clear what the group is trying to say. The tone may be overly casual or unprofessional. The writing may need better organization. Multiple errors of the sort given under “Adequate” are present, or are present to a degree that the group’s intended meaning is obscured. The writing may be disorganized or disjointed, or otherwise hard to follow It seems as though the answer was dashed off in haste and no proofreading has been done at all. Multiple errors under “Poor” are present.

The Evaluator

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
The group’s work is accurate in its references to the text and exhibits the highest substantive quality (i.e., the essential points in the task are well and thoroughly covered, without gaps). The group’s job is done thoroughly and well. Command of the material or task being asked of the group is on full display. There may be minor errors of fact or slip-ups in terms of the assigned task, but in the main the group’s performance produces correct (or at least, or where applicable, reasonably justifiable) results. There may be some mistakes in what the group submits, but it is clear that correct procedures were used and/or the correct portions of the text consulted. There may be gaps, contradictions, or other substantive issues with the group’s results, but they are of minor impact to the overall effort. One or more of the flaws listed under “Adequate” may be present to such a high degree that it is possible to ask whether the group understood the material or the task assigned at even a rudimentary level. Nothing may be submitted, or what is submitted may be pure invention, without reference to the text or the task at hand. It seems clear that the group either ignored the text or the instructions, or simply failed to understand them.

Rubric for Evaluating Group Work

In addition to the assessments described above, there will be times when the Group's overall work is assessed too. Though these evaluations will not directly affect the student's grade, they may affect the course plan if they indicate, in the instructor's judgment, that more practice is needed on a particular task or that more course time is needed on a particular concept or idea from the reading. Below is the rubric that applies to the output of our group work, taken on its own merits.

Excellent Good Adequate Poor Unacceptable
Completeness All parts of all questions have been thoroughly and completely answered. All questions have been answered. Some parts of one or two questions may have minimal answers. All questions have at least minimal answers. Some parts of one or two questions may have been neglected by mistake. One or two questions may have been left unanswered. No questions have been answered.
Substantive Content Answers do NOT have to be correct, but the student has done an exemplary job of produced complete, coherent original work, showing not just an effort to complete the assignment but some evidence of comprehension (where applicable). Where possible, page numbers have been noted so that the student can connect the answers back to the text in class discussions or in later study. The student's answers are coherent and represent original work, but there are minor lapses as well, e.g. omitted details, lack of page numbers, etc. The answers given supply only a minimal amount of information. Page numbers may not be given. In one or two cases there will be an over-reliance on personal opinion, "common sense", or other sources instead of the text. One or two answers may consist of unexplained but properly cited quotations. The answers given demonstrate only a passing acquaintance with the text, if any. In most cases answers have been given that consist only of personal opinion or narrative, "common sense", daytime talk show-style "pop-psychology", Wikipedia or other internet key-word searching. Answers may consist mostly of unexplained but properly cited quotations. More than one answer exhibits any of the flaws under "Poor" or any answer is copied from another student (cheating), or copied directly from any printed or electronic source without proper citation (plagiarism).
Relevance No extraneous information is included, and no necessary information is left out. Some irrelevant information may be included or details omitted but such lapses are minor. Irrelevant information may be included, or relevant information omitted. Irrelevant information may be included at the expense of relevant information. It may be unclear whether or not student has understood the question. The answer given may be irrelevant to the question in a substantial way, or indicate that the student has not understood the question at all.
Argumentation Where necessary and appropriate, the student has defended points made with clear, concise, cogent, and original argumentation. When given as support, examples, illustrations, quotes, and the like are thoroughly and clearly explained. The student's argumentation is clear and cogent for the most part, but may be unskillfully employed or contain minor errors. Examples or illustrations may be good but unsatisfactorily explained. The student has made an effort to engage in argumentation where necessary but such efforts are minimal and may exhibit flaws such as incompleteness or basic inferential mistakes. Examples and illustrations are faulty or left unexplained. Rhetorical questions may be inappropriately employed. No argumentation is offered in support of points, or the argumentation offered exhibits serious logical flaws. Examples, illustrations, or other support may be seriously flawed, partial, or not given at all. No support of any kind is offered for any point.
Critical Thinking An objective and fair-minded approach to the assignment has been taken. The critical thinking skills implicated in the assignment are demonstrated to an exemplary degree. An objective and fair-minded approach to the assignment has been taken. The critical thinking skills implicated in the assignment are clearly in evidence. The answer may show an uneven approach to the question in terms of fairness, or an unskillful or incorrect application of the critical thinking skills implicated in the assignment. The answer may demonstrates a preponderance of "pop-psychology" instead of critical thinking. An unfair or overly subjective approach to the question may be taken, or the student may show an inability to escape his or her own point of view with respect to the question. No discernible attempt at objectivity has been made. The answer consists mainly of unsupported assertions of opinion, or demonstrates uncritical dismissiveness towards disliked positions and arguments, or consists entirely of "pop-psychology" or personal narrative.
Writing The writing exhibits clear, competent English appropriate to a collegiate level of study. The writing exhibits competent English appropriate to a collegiate level of study, but may contain minor, inconsequential errors in structure, word choice, etc.. The writing exhibits flaws in sentence structure, word choice, etc. that hinder uptake of meaning are present. Problematic ambiguity or vagueness may be in evidence. The writing may be overly conversational in tone. The writing, while generally understandable, contains serious stylistic errors or infelicities in word choice that obscure meaning. Problematic ambiguity or vagueness is in evidence. The tone is conversational or otherwise employs language inappropriate to academic writing tasks, e.g. slang, texting shorthand ("2" in place of "to") etc. The writing displays any combination of two or more of the flaws listed under "Poor" to a severe degree, is handwritten, or is otherwise inappropriate to a collegiate level of study.
Format All instructions and formatting criteria for the assignment have been observed. All instructions and formatting criteria for the assignment have been observed. Most instructions and formatting criteria have been observed, or have been observed inconsistently. Some instructions and formatting criteria have been observed or have been observed inconsistently. Instructions and formatting criteria have been ignored altogether.
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