Alexander Didn't Conquer the World Alone.
Business, politics, medicine, and law involve working in teams. At Vohra Academy, we make sure our students know how to work in teams and lead them.
"Group projects" at most schools are at best educational socialism and grade redistribution. At worst, they are a complete waste of time.
They teach students nothing about real leadership, intelligent division of labor, or any useful skills.
At Vohra, team projects build the leadership, social, operational, management, and organizational skills that give our students an advantage in business, politics, medicine, and law.
Division of Labor and Specialized Expertise
At a regular school, instead of assigning one person a long research project, a teacher may assign a group of 3 people that same project. The work is then divided into separate topics, and so the individual student is realistically completing his own research and summary, but his grade is bizarrely dependent on how well the other students perform.
All these students are roughly equivalent in skill. Perhaps one is more driven, but none are specialists in any topic. They are just three people performing functionally identical tasks, losing all benefits from effective division of labor.
There is little value to these kinds of group exercises. All they accomplish is some kind of grade redistribution. They bear little resemblance to real teams in business, politics, medicine, or law.
In medicine, an orthopedic surgeon, vascular surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse may work together. It would be preposterous to have, instead, 6 anesthesiologists work together. Medical teams rely on division of labor and the associated specialized expertise.
Clear and Effective Leadership and Mentorship
Most business or political teams have a clear leader. A project manager in business or a campaign manager in politics is at the top of a clear hierarchy. He is not chosen at random, but instead has greater skill or experience in the relevant type of leadership. By working under him, his team learns, by example, leadership techniques.
In regular schools, on the other hand, team leaders are usually chosen at random. One person in each group is randomly assigned to “lead” the team in the pointless task. The other two don’t learn much from that “leader”, except maybe what not to do. Instead of the mentorship that comes when you work with an experienced leader, kids only learn that team projects are pointless.
Consulting on a Difficult Task
In the real world, some teams compile multiple similarly skilled thinkers on a singularly difficult creative or analytical task. Advertising and consulting teams often put a few elite thinkers to work on crafting a clever slogan or business strategy. The brilliant thinkers can bounce ideas off each other, explore various avenues, etc.
Regular school group projects, on the other hand, do not encourage students to push their minds to the limit. Instead, they mostly involve dividing up the drudgery among the group members.
Real Team Tasks, Not Menial Tasks
In engineering, R&D teams usually have somewhat open ended assignments, like “Create a waterproof but breathable fabric” or “design a lighter bulletproof vest.” Those teams are not given low grade menial tasks to divide among themselves. Menial tasks are suited to assembly lines, not elite teams.
Regular school group projects, on the other hand, are defined by menial tasks. Students have to “Make an illustration board” or “list the capitals of countries in Africa.” These types of task aren’t real team tasks. They are the menial labor normally relegated to assembly lines.
Vohra Academy team exercises are open ended enough to allow creativity. The teams are hierarchical enough for real leadership and mentorship. For example, a team leader would be at a higher level than other team members, not at the exact same level. The tasks are intellectually challenging enough to warrant a team. Usually, the tasks involve competition, to encourage teams to operate at their peaks.
As an example, take our Social Media team competitions. A competition may involve getting more “likes” for a page. Teams, lead by an upper level student, put their heads together to come up with a strategy to outdo their competitors. There is no one right way to do it.
Those teams can use the kind of specialization based division of labor found in business and medicine. A student with a knack for slogans and a student with great skills with Photoshop may both contribute heavily to a team in different ways. Working together, they can perform at a higher level than working separately. They don’t just do more work. They can do better work.
Because the younger students are working with an experienced student, they can learn leadership skills by example. They can see how the older student makes sure to listen to input from everyone, treat his team with respect, and make a clear, considered decision. The older student learns to master the challenges of leadership. He learns to bring out the best in his team, to inspire and command. He learns the importance of training and skill building, as our teams often persist through multiple competitions.
Virtually all academic work at Vohra Academy is done at the individual level. But many of our non-academic challenges are team exercises. These team challenges teach leadership skills, business discipline, and social intelligence.