Group exams

This comment was made at Macrobusiness  (link may be locked – but there is a free trial available)

Doesnt sound like too many people have played team sports. It is a lot more ruthless than some have suggested.

A possible explanation for the class room situation is that it appears that the students are not told what the raw marks of each student were before the averaging took place. As a result it is just speculation on the part of the students as to whether they were below or above the average mark and thus a burden or a hero.

When it is not possible to work out who is trying and who is bludging morale collapses and many will become discouraged.

The texas class room is a reasonable description of what happens when the social group is prevented or unable to monitor the performance and commitment of the members of the group.

When playing in a team sport underacheivers are easily identified and not tolerated unless they are trying their best -and even then not for long if there are alternative team members available.

In the event there are no alternates the other team members will still try hard because that will maximise their chance of experiencing victory – and recognition of their key part in that victory. Dead wood in a team is just that and they and their team members know it – and they usually are given a hard time if they are clearly free riding and not trying.

Another factor is whether there is a logical reason for socialising the results of the work. A team sporting victory is inherently not divisble whereas the results in an exam are.

Unless the point of pooling exam results was to force a team approach it would not makes sense. But even in that case it would be critical to reveal the individual marks so that the social group could assess whether people tried their best.

and this

One of the ironies is that many people who have reservations about individualism and prefer more emphasis on social groups and team work will argue for a social/team approach but then try to block/ ban many of the things that allow teams and social groups to work effectively. Usually they do this on the basis of protecting the rights of the individual – usually privacy. Individualism doesnt really work too well in social/team groups.

Teams and social groups work when there is effective coommunication and information within the group as to the participation and contribution to the group.

Thus group members know who is contributing and whether they are contributing to their ability. Those contributions may involve a range a social goods and not just flat screen TVs. For example : older group members minding children or performing light physical activities.

All good but the system breaks down when the group is too large for effective communication of this type of information or there are specific regulations designed to prevent the communication of this type of social/ team performance information.

It is no surprise that there is often considerable resentment when it becomes obvious that many people are being supported by the group and are making little or no contribution to the group of any description. Not even something as basic to the group as a group member simply looking after their own offspring so they do not become a threat or burden on the rest of the group.

That resentment grows when public officials and supposed supporters of the group model go further and actively seek to conceal the availability of information to the social group about who is contributing and who is not. Often the reason given is privacy or the diginity of the beneficary. Concepts that dont really have a place in tight teams or social groups.

Despite what their advocacy for social/ team orientated policies they clearly want their individualism and eat it too.

What they dont seem to understand is that the price of effective teams and social groups is that team members need to know a lot about each other including their capacities and contributions for trust to develop.

It goes without saying that extending the mutant model of ‘social/team’ thinking embedded in the modern western welfare state to the middle classes simply corrupts more people into thinking that contribution to the social/ team group is an option and a decision the state will help them conceal.

So wind back middle class welfare and wind back the thinking that there is an entitlement to receive the support of the group secretly and without obligation.

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