Breakout rooms are squandering students’ learning
By Lucy Rogers, Reporter
At this point in the year, we have all experienced online group meetings. For some, this has been a great way to connect with peers and get their own work done. But for most, Google Meets breakout rooms have proven to be anything but positive. In fact, the breakout rooms can negatively affect students and hinder their learning ability. Breakout groups and group work in general should stop immediately for the entirety of online learning.
Graphic by Savannah Butcher
Breakout rooms and group assignments are utilized in many classes. However no matter how well or little I know about the subject material, I am almost always met by silence. It is impossible to have a discussion about class materials when nobody wants to discuss them. It is even worse when there is a group assignment and no one will communicate on the problems they are working on or if they agree with the answers. Many of my peers have expressed similar stories. It would be much more beneficial for the class to have discussions all together where the teacher can intervene and act as a moderator.
When using breakout rooms, teachers can only be in one meet at a time. Some teachers have tried to use GoGuardian as a way to communicate with the whole class during breakout room sessions, while others rely on students to return to the main meeting to get help. This proves to be a huge issue. GoGuardian is helpful until multiple students have questions about their assignment, and the teacher can only answer them one by one. The longer it takes for the teacher to answer the questions, the longer students are sitting in a silent meet unable to be productive.
It would be much more efficient for questions to be answered if everyone was together. This system would be quicker and could even answer clarifying questions that students did not know they had. For teachers not using GoGuardian, it is very unlikely that students will go back and ask questions. Chances are students would rather try to figure it out on their own or wait until the class goes over the questions together.
Finally, group meets can pressure a student to do all the work themselves. I have had multiple experiences in which my group members would not communicate with me on which problems of the assignment they were going to do, which often ended up in the questions not getting done. This then pressures me to do the problems for them, not wanting the group to get a bad grade. There are many other students who have experienced this.
In one class, a student offered to solve the problems that were not done by the end of class. This was a good amount of work and should not have been their responsibility, but I assume they felt it was better to get it done themselves than stress about it not getting done at all. Teachers may argue that it is the students’ responsibility to inform the teacher through a group-rating survey when this occurs, but this hardly solves the problem. Students have always avoided snitching on classmates. Some can outgrow this, but there are plenty of people who still hold that fear within them.
Furthermore, even in an anonymous survey, if a student gets in trouble for being a bad group member, they will know somebody in their group reported them, which might cause tensions if the groups are reused. All in all, using group assignments during online learning puts undue pressure on students who are trying their hardest while others get a free ride.
I understand that teachers want to keep students socialized and have them communicate with each other, however breakout rooms are not the way to do so. Instead teachers should encourage socialization through class discussions and debates where teachers can act as moderators. As for the group work, students who are confident in the subject should be allowed to complete work independently, while less confident students can stay in the main meeting and go over it with the teacher. This could greatly benefit students who are embarrassed to ask for additional help. By having class meetings to further students’ understanding, students would be able to learn more while not being put in the spotlight.
In conclusion, teachers, if you are reading this, stop using the breakout rooms immediately. They rarely work and do not help students socialize, nor enrich their learning experience. Instead, provide alternatives and ask your students what might work for their class.