Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 4: Constitutional Convention  
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Workshop 4

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Teacher Perspectives
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Student Perspectives: Group work

Alvin: I have a great group. [One member] has no problem putting his thoughts out there and he doesn't hold back. He and [another member] really want you to know what they're thinking. Not only does [group work] enable you to focus on thinking individually, you have to learn how to compromise. You can't have everything you want [and] you can't just let other people walk over you. Working by yourself is good but you're never going to pick up on everything no matter how many books you read [or] how long you study. You're going to miss something and your own interpretation of something may or may not be slanted. If you get someone else to read the same material and you discuss it together, the other person may say, "Well, you know, when I read this sentence, I picked up on this," and you may not have gotten that. You may agree or disagree, but either way allows you to think about it even more, and you grow as well as the other person.

Brionna: At first I didn’t like working in groups at all because I’m used to doing things my own way, but when you work in a group you get a lot of different opinions and it’s really good to see what other people come up with. You learn more. Sometimes one person pulls more weight than other people or sometimes you just butt heads too much and you get nothing done, but I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Ceretta: I think we're working well together and it's going pretty well. Certain people in our group have more expertise in some areas--like there's one young man who reads a lot and knows more [about] constitutions, and there's another one who knows more about [the] philosophy of Karl Marx. It helps us construct the constitution better and it helps us see how it makes up the representation of the government. Other people may have different ideas and we can add that into our own. It really does help me. We're working with a lot of countries, and if I forget a certain aspect--like how the judicial branch of India works--and somebody can help me with that, I may be able to help with the executive branch of the United Kingdom. Working on how to cooperate and compromise and not being too scared to ask for help or offer help are really important. It really helps with your social skills.

Chris: [A few of us] had really wild ideas. We wanted to be avant garde, whereas [the other members] are really conservative. They were scared that their resolutions weren’t going to be adopted. We weren’t too worried about our resolution being adopted, we just wanted to get the ideas out there. Maybe we could get someone to change his or her mind, or form some kind of coalition. Our ideas just kept clashing. Every time there was a resolution presented, almost everyone in the group had a different resolution. It was fun at times, but it also was frustrating. I was trying to make everyone see the way that I think government should be and they didn’t see it in that manner. They were getting hostile and I was getting hostile and they said, “Let’s not get hysterical and crazy.” We [decided to not] say anything for five minutes and then come back and start talking, and we kind of compromised.

The [positive side] of working in groups is the ability to learn how to cooperate with other people because that’s what you’re going to have to do when you get older and start working in the real world. The [negative side of] working with other people [is that they don’t always come through]. I think the major pro of working in groups is the ability to hear other people’s points of view and kind of match them up with yours.

Elliott: I think the group works well because we have a lot of different viewpoints and personality types. [Mr. Johnson] tries to force you to interact with people you wouldn't [interact with] normally. So far, my group has been pretty cohesive. [One] member is a really sharp guy--cynical, always thinking outside of the box in different ways, which is great. [Another] is an advocate for the people, so that's good. And [a third] is a great organizer and keeps everybody on task.

Jade: [One member] brings a lot of conservative views as far as what she thinks government should be or how people should rule. [Another] is pretty liberal in her beliefs and especially in her thoughts of how the United States interacts with different countries. I try to look for the most effective, efficient policies that the majority of people can relate to--something that will be fair to all classes, both sexes, and all racial backgrounds. Actually we bring a lot of different viewpoints into perspective. It's not that the group members are difficult [or that] our interests are so conflicting that we don't get to agree on anything. If someone throws out a point that really makes sense, we try to find equilibrium between all three views.

Lauren: [One member] is not set with his beliefs. He looks at both sides of the story and tries to come to a conclusion. He's easy to work with because he's more understanding. He definitely contributes to the group. [Another member] has his own views about a lot of things. He'll say, “Well I can see your side, but I still believe it should be this way.” There's no changing his beliefs for the most part. [The first fellow], on the other hand, tries to defend his side but he understood both sides and he's more prone to changing his ideas because another group member might have a better point. I don't understand it as much as the rest of the group. So I do participate, but I participate when I know what I'm talking about. I just kind of sit back and listen to what's going on first. Once I understand what's going on, I contribute.

Toussaint: I like our group. There's a lot of diversity--we have the only Hispanic in the class, so as far as even race goes, we have diversity. As far as the voices go, I think I am most of the voice of the people in my group. We have a female in our group who hasn't decided her political views in life but she's helping out. The one Hispanic in our group is very intelligent. He and I clash. We come from different homes and different backgrounds. [Another member], who is also a very smart person, has been playing devil's advocate. He’s willing to say that he agrees with everyone but he can see the fault with everyone also. I like working with people and so working in a group to me is fun--bouncing ideas off, even arguing, because through struggle we get progress. I really do like fighting over ideas even if it doesn't come out my way.

Victor: The thing about group work is you don't know how strict the teacher is going to grade [it] as opposed to when he gives us a test when we know that each question is worth such and such points. It’s a little bit more difficult because we are learning from each other. We might not accomplish as much as we want, and it's just more complicated to figure out what we're going to get.

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