I have worked in the business realm for 16 years in addition to my 8 years of classroom experience. The jobs where incentive was given for those who performed well were more productive companies. If a company offered a free meal to a restaurant as an incentive for the individual who performed the best in sales, the company benefited greatly in sales because more was contributed by the group. We all want to feel a sense of acknowledgement for a job well done. An interesting twist is to bring this type of group structure into the classroom.
A group leader within the classroom is not able to reward based on favoritism, just as a boss is not able to reward employees just because they like one more than another. They reward based on a rubric that has been established. An evaluation process of some sort has to be established before rewards/ incentives can be distributed. This is constructed by the teacher and distributed to the leaders. The leaders must be individuals who work on a team for a length of time that is longer than a class period or two. Establishment of a team takes a minimum of a week or two. I propose that a team be put together for 9 weeks to start with. Remember that as the teacher, you are completely responsible for the success of the whole class. Check in with your leaders to see how you can support them. They will have an opportunity to share concerns and successes of the group they are responsible for. Often we have group members evaluate the performance of the group, so this should not be something new or “cutting edge”. But the question must be asked, how often are rubrics handed out to the group for the evaluation of the other group members? How often are the rubrics set up so that instead of being punitive they are set up to be supportive by giving areas of opportunities for growth? If a student whom a teacher thought was going to be an excellent leader turns out to be less than what is expected, the teacher can offer that student opportunities to improve (before the leadership role is removed if improvement is not displayed).
A group leader cannot give themselves rewards/incentives. They are in charge of distributing those to their group. The leader’s incentives come from the teacher. If a particular group works extremely well together, and they have shown growth, or they have created an excellent end project, then the team leader gets their incentive. Again this is based on an evaluation rubric so that none can say that a teacher played favoritism. Incentives can be given out by the team leader over the course of the nine weeks, but they only have so many to give out (It’s kind of like a budget).
Because this is a unique way of grouping students, the students will need to be trained on how to be a leader, how to work within the group, what incentives will be offered, and how to use the rubrics. Students must be told that just because they are not the leader this time does not mean that the teacher does not view them as a leader. Many times if we are not picked first, it feels as though the picker does not like us. This is a point that will need to be demonstrated and reinforced, and reinforced again and again.
The Devil is in the Details:
If students are not trained well in this style of grouping, bitterness, criticalness, anxiety, anger, and frustration, can seep in and destroy the group dynamics. The rubrics are designed to encourage, support, and show areas where there is opportunity for growth. All evaluations are submitted to the teacher and reviewed. This eliminates a student feeling picked on or isolated. Areas that are deemed opportunities for growth are relayed by the teacher to the students. It is not the group leaders responsibility to tell a student negative information. They do not need to be the heavy or the bad guy. As adults, we know how to deliver this type of information in a gentler manner. Reviews need to be submitted weekly. This eliminates an issue from dragging on and on. Keep in mind, the group leader needs be able to say that he/she has noticed this opportunity for this student and has tried to encourage, engage, or redirect the student in a particular way. There always needs to be positive comments on the review.
Group leaders are not “in charge” of the group. They are leaders. They do not boss the other group members around. They are to keep the group moving forward. Leaders know the direction the group needs to go, and they help everyone on the team arrive at the finish line.