To the Editor:
Your article, “Training Graduate Students to Be Effective Teachers” (The Chronicle, July 30), is excellent. The following suggestions regarding smartphones in the classroom and social loafing augment this article and may help new faculty members.
Smartphones in the Classroom
Some faculty members become frustrated with students surreptitiously using smartphones during class time. The best discipline today is the same as it was 37 years ago — namely, a good lesson plan. Faculty members can design lectures and classroom activities that incorporate students’ use of their smartphones to yield positive results. Smartphones are excellent tools that offer many opportunities to improve learning. Faculty members can direct students to use their phones to read current newspaper columns as current case studies. Students analyzing cases this way get live up-to-date information that brings lecture information alive. Also, students can use their phones as calculators and take pictures of information on the board to use as notes. This allows students to pay attention instead of trying to take notes of everything on the board or on the screen. It will result in more teaching moments.
Graded Group Projects and Social Loafers
Grading students for group projects is considered unethical due to social loafing (i.e., letting others do the work). Students who are loafing are receiving the same grade as the other students in the work group. The social loafers’ grade-point averages are inflated.
Some argue that grading students on group projects will help students learn to deal with real-life situations. This is spurious thinking. College is nothing like the real world. Students regard how their peers perceive them as very important. The idea of a student reporting social loafers is wishful thinking as many students will not report fellow classmates because it is not considered cool.
Instructors can reduce social loafing by doing the following: (a) keep groups small by assigning four or five students to each work group; (b) provide students with realistic expectations of what they can expect as the project proceeds; (c) provide students with definitions regarding teams and group projects; (d) discuss group dynamics including the stages of group development and the roles people play in groups; (e) engage students in team building exercises; (f) provide class time for students to work on their projects; and (g) provide feedback regularly.
C. Kevin Synnott
Master of Science in Organizational Psychology Program
Department of Psychology
University of Hartford