ISSUE-143

Claim: Group assignments that students must work together to complete should replace a substantial amount of traditional lecture-based instruction in college and university courses.

Reason: It is vital for students to gain experience collaborating with peers to study a topic and to achieve a common goal.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.


It is an obvious task for schools to develop students' ability to collaborate, but it is debatable whether group assignment should replace lecture-based instruction in order to cultivate student collaboration.


First, I acknowledge that the ability to cooperate is essential. This is because modern industrial society is becoming more and more complex and people's division of labor is becoming more and more elaborate, so cooperation between different divisions of labor is very important in order for each complex system to function smoothly. For example, a small cell phone requires cooperation and collaboration between designers and engineers to create a machine with both technological elegancies and obeys the laws of physics and engineering. Since the division of labor and cooperation is so important in the future of work, schools should begin developing the ability and awareness for collaboration while people still are students. On the one hand, this is because the school itself is a place where people get training, and society is a place where students apply those abilities. On the other hand, school is a better place than society to develop students' collaborative skills. This is because school is a place where students can develop collaborative skills starting with the most basic tasks, such as group assignments. But when they get to the workplace, the collaboration students face will be more complex and sophisticated. Without basic training in cooperation in school, it is not easy to adapt to a more complex partnership when they go to the workplace. In summary, collaboration skills are worth developing in school.


That said, schools should not be able to substantially replace teacher instruction in order to develop collaboration skills. First, this is because the teacher's class is an important way to transmit knowledge, and students gain knowledge most efficiently in the classroom. This is why, whether in ancient Greece or ancient China, the teacher's lecture-based instruction was the most widely-used means of teaching. That is why we should keep the teacher's lectures. Especially for the more theoretical subjects, for example, teacher lectures can hardly be replaced by other means, such as basic subjects like mathematics and theoretical physics. These subjects involve a great deal of theoretical knowledge, and students need to have a teacher lecture to introduce these theories. This knowledge is unknown and difficult to understand until students hear it from a teacher. Therefore, no matter how much students work together on a task, they will not be able to grasp this knowledge and will have to rely on the teacher's lecture.


Furthermore, the claim that collaborative student work should replace traditional teacher instruction relies on the false assumption that collaboration and teacher instruction are mutually exclusive. Based on such an assumption, people believe that class time must be sacrificed for collaboration. However, the two are not incompatible. We can recall the group work we did in college. Each one was done within the framework of the professor's guidance. Students can still develop the ability to work together under the guidance of a professor.


Finally, developing collaborative skills doesn't have to take place in the classroom. Many off-campus activities and hands-on work are opportunities to build collaborative skills, and these situations do not, in and of themselves, replace lectures.


In summary, while I agree that collaborative skills should be developed in school, we should not overlook the significance of teacher instruction. Teacher instruction is an efficient way to transfer knowledge and is not mutually exclusive to the development of students' collaborative skills. Therefore, teacher instruction should not be replaced by group assignment.

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