I was reminded of this incident when reading "Writing is Not a Team Sport, Learning is Not Team-Dependent" by Linda Schrock Taylor. She criticizes the "cooperative learning" fad thus (emphasis in the original):
The language, Edu-Speak, now includes terms like: peer groups, peer editing, peer review, peer led, peer directed…but fails, of course, to include, peer disgust, peer disinterest, peer miseducation, peer failure, peer laziness, motivated peer doing all the work while all other group members benefit from a higher (group) grade than deadweight peers could have ever earned working individually,... But such is fad-driven educational policy.
Amen to that, sister!
I find the idea of peer reviews especially off-putting in the area of composition and writing....Picture assigning a group of four students, all with comparable (lack of) skills, editing each others’ papers! Shudder as the group adds bad corrections and simplistic, if not downright inappropriate, suggestions and rewrites to an already deficient paper!!
I can remember arguing with the other members of my group about why they couldn't include the phrase "uniformly two tier rate structure" in our presentation and paper. I just couldn't get through to them that something cannot be both "uniform" and "two tier". I even pulled out a dictionary to show them the definition of "uniform". Even then they insisted that I was wrong and that having two flat rates is "uniformly two tier". Oy! I flat-out refused to give in and they finally did cut the word "uniformly" but we had wasted a ridiculous amount of time on it.
Yes, in the workplace colleagues do often have to work together on group projects. But salaries, raises, and promotions are not handed out collectively!
By all means, students should sometimes be required to participate in group projects. However, grading should be done on an individual basis for fairness. Those team members who contribute the most should be rewarded and "free riders" should be punished.