CL1 - Teaching Stories: Personal factors that mattered



Students speak out on Collaborative Learning
by Cathy Middlecamp

Personal factors

Students say that personal factors matter. For example, one student wrote, "I feel that personal factors, such as gender, race, and age, will always influence the formation and function of a group." Another commented, "In regards to the questions pertaining to sex, race, and age, I can only say that they affect every person differently. I don't think that there is a way to make a situation perfect for everyone."

Here are the details:

  • A personal factor that affects me is being an older student. MORE, ...

  • Not all students feel comfortable working with the opposite sex or other races. MORE, ...

  • It depends on personality. MORE, ...

  • It is not easy to communicate ideas if English is your second language. MORE, ...

  • I had the reputation of being "smart." MORE, ...

  • I did not notice any personal factors. MORE, ...

A personal factor that affects me is being an older student, . . .

A personal factor that affects me is being an older student. I think this is good, because I can bring in more experience to a group. It is nice to have younger students look up to me for help in organizing.

My status as a senior in a class with an overwhelming freshmen enrollment may have had an effect on my assertions about the group learning process. Having experienced several group work situations, as discussed above, I was able to appreciate both the advantages and potential disadvantages that fortunately did not occur, but would be undetectable to the inexperienced freshman. I found that my unique situation as an older member of the class turned out to be advantageous and insightful in realizing the positive dynamics of the structure of the course and my fellow students.

Age may also play a factor. Younger persons could feel less experienced than older members whereas older members may feel unable to relate to a younger generation.

Being an older student you may feel like you have the upper hand and you may not want to work with the freshman or sophomores in your group. This can then lead to problems.

A factor that affects the way I work in groups is my age. Being a second year college student has given me a lot of experience with cooperative learning. And, especially in chemistry 108 where there is a large number of freshmen in the class, I have found that my extra experience with group work often puts me in a leadership role in group situations.

I did find that the older the group member, the more they were inclined to quest for knowledge and thoroughly understand the task at hand.

The personal factors that influenced this would have to rest in the fact that I've started college as an older student. I've worked a variety of jobs for about eight years prior to enrolling as a student and I've been through a fair share of working with others. I know how important it is to be able to interact with other members with the same goal regardless of any differences that may exist.

I feel I have a personal advantage when put in a group setting in that I'm a junior and have recently changed my major. Having already completed two years, I feel comfortable talking with students about questions and solving lab problems with a team. Small groups have helped me make sense of the material faster and with less anxiety than working alone. Being a junior, I've been involved with many school activities and job opportunities where group skills were important.

In my discussion section there is a student who is easily ten to twenty years older than the rest of the students, including myself. Personally, I probably wouldn't have said much to the student just because I enjoy talking to people my own age and usually find that I don't have very much in common with older people. However, through group work, I have found this student to be extremely interesting and even one of the funniest people I have met this year.

Not all students feel comfortable working with the opposite sex or other races, . . .

Not all students feel comfortable working with the opposite sex or even other races which is really sad, but sometimes true.

Being a women, I sometimes feel intimidated by being put in a group of all males.

Since I'm a single male, I probably would prefer a female though.

I have found that the fact that I'm a female often means that I will end up doing a lot more of the work. This isn't true all of the time of course, and maybe it has to do more with my personality and way of handling situations but, none the less, I have found that I end up doing much more of the group's work when put with males compared to females.

Being female does not change anything, but it may if I was in an all male group. The male members may disregard a female opinion but in most cases, that is not a problem. These days, it is easy for females to feel equal to males academically.

Although diversity is always applauded, it sometimes causes uncomfortableness.

Being a minority in an group situation will hinder the effort and the way the person may feel. If a person feels different or does not fit in the same, it may be difficult for them to express thoughts about the problem or situation.

Sometimes I think it was good for me not to have any guys in my group so I could stay on task better.

There are certain influences that take part when first figuring out your group. The males usually work together and the females usually do the same.

I also was one of only two males in my section, which made it interesting, but inconsequential in evaluating my experiences working in a group.

Many females may be a bit shy because of the intimidation of a male student.

I don't think it makes any difference if group members are male or female. Although, some people tend to be intimidated by people of the opposite sex. Personally, it does not affect me either way.

For some reason I have always worked better with guys. I just seem to listen more and cooperate more with them and vice versa. Of course I choose guys that pull their fair share though. I am just more compatible with them. I know some people who are the opposite and like to work with females. It works both ways.

Being a minority on a majority white campus would often cause me to be looked at different. The first day we had a lab and we had to break off into groups, Nichol and I had teamed up with 3 other girls who seemed to know each other from the dorm and other places. When we started to work they were working among themselves and not even letting us know what they was doing.

It depends on personality, . . .

It depends on personality a lot more than being male or female. It depends on the amount of knowledge people have to contribute.

I think that it just boils down to a person's pre-conceived notions and stereotypes and their willingness to get over them.

Some personal factors that influence the my efficiency and effectiveness of group work include being able to socialize and the degree to which one knows the other person(s).

I think the only characteristic that should be valued in group projects is work ethic.

The only thing I hate is group members who have no personality and are way too serious about everything.

Some personal factors are involved when working with others. If all sides are willing to compromise and respect opinions, then it does not matter what sex or race the participants in the group contain. However, if arrogance, or ignorance interfere it is often difficult to work as a team.

I do not believe there are any personal factors that influenced my answer, such as being a female or a younger student. What really has influenced my answer is, if you like to work with people, it makes group work a lot easier and fun. If you do not like to work with people, it makes the work a lot harder. Since I have worked with many different people and enjoyed each experience, group work is rewarding.

Personal factors such as being a female and my age don't affect my views on group work. I am not very enthusiastic about it though. I am an independent person, and I like to work on things at my own pace, which usually is, to work hard to get things done long before they are due, and to have them done correctly. This is hard to do when working in groups. My attitude about group work does change, depending on what we are working on in the group. For example, I would never want to work on a lab individually, I don't feel confident enough to trust what I am doing. I like for other people to check my work, to make sure that I am doing things correctly.

The only thing that biases me this way is that I am a bit anal, and I like to be in control of what is going on when in a group. But it is pretty hard to work well if you have several people in a group with the same attitude. I often found myself stepping aside because someone else had taken charge.

It is not easy to communicate ideas if English is your second language.

Some foreign students may feel unequal or discriminated against in group work because it is not as easy for them to communicate their ideas if English is their second language. Unfortunately,

I think other students may get frustrated with the foreign students' inability to speak English well and sometimes ignore their comments and ideas.

The situation changes though with a person who is not a native English speaker. People not only have to deal with other people's stereotypes, they also have to deal with not being understood sometimes. The only solution to that dilemma is to be in a group of people who are very patient and open-minded so that they non-English speaker can feel more at ease.

I came from overseas: Indonesia. Having English as a second language has brought me some troubles in adjusting to the course and using cooperative learning for discussion and laboratory experiences. From the very beginning, I had difficulties. ... I felt that I had to ask every time I wanted to work with others. When I said something, it seemed that they did not understand what I was talking about. They did not compromise with my language problem. I felt desperate. I felt that nobody could understand me. It seemed that they did not know that I exist and I am the member of the class.

It was not after three weeks siting in the class and having two laboratory experiments that I felt comfortable with the teacher and the friends in the class. My English had gradually improved within that time and I was able to communicate pretty well. My teacher, Teri is also great. She has been able to put the students to cooperate with each other and bring them to work with peers effectively. I can now work with either male or female students. Now, I feel happy because I have been able to work and communicate well with my peer groups and other students in the class, but still with little problems due to language, culture, and gender.

If English is not someone's first language, then I think the other group members should take their time with him/her and allow them to contribute as well. It may take them a little longer to communicate, but they still should be able to share valuable information. In the class, everyone should be (and is) equal. I believe that everyone is equal and has equal chance to achieve. That thought influenced my answer to the previous questions.

Finally, I think that if English is a student's second language, they will definitely feel uncomfortable. These students tend to be much quieter and do not participate as much. This can lead to frustration with other group members.

I find it especially hard to overcome language barriers.

If one of the group members do not speak English well, it may be frustrating at times to repeat things or clarify them. These guidelines should be set before groups are formed to avoid any frustrations from both parties within the group.

I had the reputation of being "smart."

Personally, I have always considered cooperative learning to be a hassle. Starting in middle school, I had the reputation of being "smart." I wasn't necessarily more intelligent than my peers, but I did want to do well. I sincerely love learning and always have. I remember that everybody always wanted to work with me when we had to do group work with the hope that I would do the work for them. Since I couldn't stand to let my grade suffer because of someone else, I usually took over and did more than my fair share of work. This continued into college, when I had more group assignments. Cooperative learning advocates might say I should have taken the opportunity to teach my peers what I knew how to do so that everyone could benefit. In my case that would have meant teaching my peers how to proofread, how to write coherent sentences, how to deliver a speech, and lots of other basic skills that they already should have known. As a student at a world-class university, I don't think it is my responsibility to teach adults basic skills.

I did not notice any personal factors, . . .

I did not notice any personal factors such as: sex, age, and race throughout group work. Everybody, no matter what type of person they were, had an equal say and was listened to. More group projects are for better than for worse.

I really do not have any personal factors that influences the way I feel about group work. I really think that it depends on what kind of work you are doing. I do not think being a male or female, older or younger, or having different backgrounds should matter. I think group work is even better when you have many different people working together.

I really do not think that any personal factors ever hold back a group. For me, age or gender does not play a role in how I work with people. The most important factor for people in a group is that they are prepared and they are motivated and willing to work. I guess that if someone does not speak English well it might be a setback but if they are prepared it should not be a problem.

I didn't really experience any personal factors which affected the production and relationship of my group, but I do see how some of these factors could be a problem. For example, if one of my group members spoke a different language, I can see how it could be a problem communicating. However, this isn't to say that there aren't ways to work around the problem. Part of working in a group also involves solving problems which may arise. In my lab group I was the only guy and I didn't have any gender problems.

I don't believe that there are any significant factors that affect my answers. I am the average first year student who graduated from high school last spring, nothing unusual.

I don't have any personal reasons for liking or disliking group work. It really doesn't make a difference what age, race or sex my classmates are, or what they're like outside of class.

I really don't think there are any major factors that influenced my thoughts. I think every student can have equal say in group work if they really wanted to.

There really are no personal factors which influenced my answers because over all I feel that group work is very beneficial.

When working in a group, everyone must contribute and help equally. It should not matter whether you are male/female or a freshman/junior.

There are no personal factors that have affected my answer. I have never felt left out or rejected from a group, because of my being a female. I am not older than everyone else, and English is my first language, so these two questions are irrelevant to me. Although I haven't noticed a problem with these types of people trying to fit in, they seem to do fine.

I don't think being a female/male makes a difference. I suppose you may feel like the minority when the only one of a particular sex in a group, but in my experiences, the males in our all girl group weren't intimidated or left out.

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