Does temperament composition impact group dynamics in an upper division biology lab course?
Many STEM courses include group work as a component of their assessment structure. Group projects have the potential to promote collaboration, foster leadership and organization skills, and lead to creative outcomes. However, they can also act destructively to drive divisions among members, create unequal work load distributions and create poorly organized work products. This leads to negative student learning experiences and creates a culture of undergraduates that avoid collaboration with their peers. Many educators rely on the fact that students need to gain skills that relate to group organization and effective collaboration for their future careers and thus continue to encourage group projects in their courses. However, the classroom environment is different than the workplace for many reasons. Students have different backgrounds and skills, they often have different grading structures and thus different goals for the class and their motivation in the course subject varies greatly as well. Some are taking the class simply as a major requirement, where as others are hoping to gain skills and knowledge that will enhance their future careers. All of these differences do not accurately reflect a workplace environment that guarantees a more concrete baseline of interest, skill level, and personal accountability. Thus, student group work should be much more focused, organized and directed to achieve the goals of constructive group projects.
To better understand how to best implement effective group work, Elizabeth conducted a study on the impact of different temperament composition on group dynamics in an upper division biology lab course. Specifically, she had all students take the "16 personality test" online and then assigned students to groups that were either homogeneous extroverts, homogeneous introverts, and heterogeneous, with equal ratios of introverts and extroverts. All students were given explicit instructions on workload allocation between members and were held accountable through individualized grading schemes even though each group was creating a single work product. Groups were monitored using indirect assessments such as check-in meetings and directly assessed through their lab report grades. At the end of the quarter Elizabeth conducted a survey asking students to elaborate on their group experience and determine what specific aspects they liked and disliked about their group dynamic. This talk will discuss these results and give suggestions to improve the undergraduate experience with group projects.