Self – Selected Groups

No level headed teacher would dream of letting students create their own groups for a project, but here I am.

Having students lead by team captains self-select their team is one of the tenets of eduScrum. It is essential that students understand their power of choice. This is not the class they’ve taken every year with a new teacher and slightly bigger tables. Student agency is paramount to the success of this year.

This task is not to be taken lightly though. If we let students pick who they want to work with we all know they will pick their friends and nothing will get accomplished.

We have been working up to this point laying the ground work for how to pick groups and the students don’t even know it yet. By beginning the school year with learning about Gardner’s multiple intelligences and exploring how we learn differently through activities and group discussions that students now clearly understand that each of them functions in a different unique way. Their strengths and weaknesses makes them better suited for some tasks and helps them identify where they need to grow. They will now learn how to use their unique brains to work together.

At the beginning of the class I chose team captains. I would like to pretend there was some magical way that I found leaders in the classroom, but at this point in the year I chose team captains that would be returning to the physical classroom once our campus opened. Hopefully, as the year progresses students will start to self – select captains once they understand the system.

I then handed out Qualities and Skills checklists to each student. The students picked their top 5 qualities and skills they felt they were strongest in. Once they returned the document I assigned all students a secret number, copied and pasted all of the checklists onto one document to create an anonymous list of only qualities and skills.

This was done while we were virtually learning so all of it was composed in a Google doc that could be shared. In the next project I may revisit this practice and update it since I am anticipating that more students will be in class.

Prior to the selection we discussed what makes the best groups. Should we all be creative? Detail Oriented? A leader? These are all great characteristics, can you have to much? Should our teams be like-minded or diverse? What outcomes should be anticipate from our groups?

Team captains were given access to the document and met to pick the key qualities and skills that they thought would build the best group. When they returned each captain listed the numbers they had chosen while I attached the numbers to names. This is quiet an experience, since the captains chose solely on personality traits they had no idea who was in their group. One student described this as nerve wrecking. They are not used to making decisions, never mind decisions that will greatly effect the next few weeks of their lives.

In their newly self selected groups the 8th grade government students are ready to plan their first project. They will study the work of Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau and then examine how power should be distributed in a stable society and the relationship between people and government.

In the next lesson I will be introducing the FLAP and how to design a project. Real design thinking employed through social contract theory. Awesome.

We are on the tipping point of real student ownership and empowerment.

This year will be full of growth.

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