Yes, we did drop the CEO interview idea because, following the debate, we were concerned that it would take too much time to go through ‘presentation in pairs’ work again for very little gain.
Regarding the design of their own groups, I am absolutely with you that the product needs to be focussed on the learning aims and, while allowing for some creativity is part of helping students to make the content their own and engage with it more strongly, their creative energies need to be channeled towards helping them to engage with the material they are supposed to be learning. For us, that has been one of FOSIL’s strengths (particularly lower down) as it gets students to focus on the material not the ‘pictures, crazy fonts and colour effects’ aspect of poster making that younger students in particular tend to gravitate to. In the Lower School we often don’t tell them what the product will be until they have mostly finished the Investigate and Construct stages. In this case the design of their own groups wasn’t entirely frivolous – Joe and I both felt that most of the students had an excellent grasp of what a pressure group requires to succeed by the end of the exercise, which they wouldn’t readily forget. However, the initial idea was that they should be building up case studies to use in the exam and this element didn’t help with that (although the debate was brilliant for it). Our plan for next year is, instead of the group design, to ask them to write an article to ‘enter’ for an investigative journalism award (such as the Pulitzer, but trying to find a UK example) on the success (or otherwise) of a different named group, dividing think tanks, cyberactivists and trade unions between them. They could then read and judge each other’s efforts. This has several benefits: the articles wouldn’t need any complicated layout so all the creative energy would go into the investigation; it would give them each one more case-study to look at in depth; they would gain even more case studies by judging other students’ work; and it will allow us to introduce different types of group. An element of competition is also a helpful driver for some students! All embryonic ideas at the moment, but we’ve got almost a year to think about them.
Your last question is interesting and important, so I’ll consider it in a separate post!