Helps and Hindrances

Brain on fireIn my last post on brainstorming exercises for project-based learning, I embedded some cropped images of the relevant worksheets.  Here are are the complete worksheets in pdf form:

I see both of the exercises occurring within the first week or two of classes for a project that is supposed to occupy a team of students for the whole semester.

Brainstorming I and II should be viewed as a set in which each student works individually before working with others as a team. The remaining worksheets specify individual and team work in the same exercise — through the instruction “discuss your ideas with your teammates when they are finished.”

I’m hoping that the worksheet process — writing on physical pieces of paper that students have put their names to — will make students feel that they are being held accountable for their contributions by me and by their teammates. This is a major leap of faith on my part, but I know from experience as both a student and a professor that some kind of individual accountability is necessary to prevent free riders and facilitate effective collaboration. However, even though I’ll be collecting completed worksheets — and possibly organizing them into files for students to access in class as a resource — I will not be formally grading them. Students will be evaluating their own and their teammates contributions on two occasions later in the semester; I’ll be discussing that in a future post.

After brainstorming, students will start translating ideas into action using the 3 Helps and Hindrances worksheet, which is designed to coach each student into conducting a finer-grained analysis of one of the ideas previously generated by his or her team. Teams should then be able to identify what are the most promising initial strategies for completing the project successfully — a bit like Xenophon convening a discussion of the generals and captains of the Ten Thousand in the Anabasis.

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