I've written before about grades and the unintended consequences of placing too much emphasis on GPA. At our career center (I shudder even to write this), students are instructed to place GPA at the top of their resume. Little wonder, then, that grades loom large here. And yet, employers continue to take a much broader view of potential candidates, as illustrated by CNN's recent Top 10 reasons employers want to hire you, where good cultural fit (described as being able to adapt) and ability to work with others are two of the 10.
The course I'm currently teaching has, by design, both individual work and teamwork as part of a student's grade. The biggest complaint about the teamwork is that they lose control over the quality of the work; thus, teamwork may cause their grade to suffer. The most popular solution offered by the students? Don't make us work in teams. And, if you're going to force us to work in teams, don't make us work with people we don't like or who aren't as smart as we are.
I've been incredulous listening to students explain how The Real World doesn't work this way, that they will be able to control their own destiny when they get a job, and that I simply do not understand how unfair it is to have others negatively impact ones work. My internal response is roughly, "O, really? You seriously think my reputation is not affected by the professors you label as uncaring and incompetent? By the anonymous feedback provided through teacher evaluations? By committee meetings--and members--that often drain my last ounce of creativity and interest?" My external response is a sigh. I wonder whether it's possible to develop a thirst and drag them to water.
Since one of the teams in my class decided to "fire" a member this week--for communication and performance differences which seem insurmountable to them and are, in fact, the very issues they will encounter in every company, job, and working relationship--I am highly motivated to seize this learning opportunity, both for myself and for my students.
This debate in The Chronicle of Higher Education exemplifies the difference of opinion among educators about what we should teach and why--which, of course, raises the question of how. And that brings us full circle to assessing whether students are learning what they need to know. So, one of the assignments for my class next week will be to read the article and the responses. Then they have to weigh in...in writing...for a grade. It's a place to start.