Friday, June 11, 2010

I can work with anyone....except her

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 writing...for a grade.  It's a place to start.


  1. Absolutely true. It seems that students (that I know) have no sense of the real world though they have a large sense of entitlement.

    When you're in a office, most of the time you don't get to choose your co-workers or members of a project team. It then becomes a balancing act to getting the work done and navigating the wonderfully shark-infested waters of corporate politics. In the end, unless you're in a leadership position you gain little by 'ratting out' weaker members and must trust that their incompetence will be exposed through negligence on their part or the Peter Principle.

    Hell...even management cannot directly control who their peers are and must work learn to work with the same issues that plague the worker-bees.

    I've been in similar positions a few times in my career. Maybe it's me?

  2. It isn't so much me whining about my grade being lower than because of someone who, in a Capsim universe, should be fired. It's more about what it says about an institution that could care less about the fact that I am pulling up the GPA of, dare I say it, undeserving students.

    I'm not even bitter about any of this anymore (no, really!), I just don't understand what professors mean when they talk about "entitlement", when they are partially to blame for two students graduating with the same GPA; one who has spent weekends writing papers, and another one who spent weekends at 21st Amendment.

    Maybe this is the reason that "in the real world" co-workers often, for lack of better words, suck? Maybe the reason co-workers do work that isn't up to someone's standards is because they were never forced to do so in college? Maybe they graduated with a GPA that doesn't represent their work, but that represents the work of their classmates? Maybe they step into The Real World expecting to have other people catch their mistakes? Maybe they are the ones who feel entitled after 4 years of college?

    Blahblahblah, I'm going to get off my soapbox now.

  3. I take it back. I'm totally bitter. Just look at that run-on sentence up there!

  4. Yana, my comments were not at all directed to you (though we've had some of these conversations). I don't have the answers to the questions you raise, nor do I have a really good response to the issues Ken raises. Perhaps the dialog is the important part...


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