Group projects. They’re messy, stressful, and also a necessary skill.
New methods of teaching rely heavily on assignments that teach collaborative skills. Collaborative learning is becoming popular and even PISA is assessing collaborative problem solving and communication abilities.
I get it, being able to work in a group is important. Typically I have one group project per semester, which is plenty. This semester, however, I am fortunate enough to have four, one in every class.
When you have one group project, it is feasible to take control of it to ensure the work gets done. However, when there are four, there just isn’t enough time.
Some teachers try to get around the injustice of the group project by changing how they grade you.
Some teachers give everyone the same grade for the assignment.
Problem: Not everyone deserves the same grade.
Others allow you to grade each of your group member’s performance and provide comments about why you chose that grade.
Problem: Everyone talks about it ahead of time and decides to give each other As. Unfortunately, sometimes everyone is so scared to make the others mad that no one questions anyone, corrupting the objective of collaboration.
There are professors who will have your classmates grade your presentation, but everyone gets the same grade.
Problem: Everyone still gets the same grade, and classmates don’t always objectively grade one another.
In the end, an assigned group project leads to a semester of procrastination, miscommunication, and disappointment.
Not All Bad
Of course, this is being dramatic. I’ve had some great group projects in the past. Just last semester I had a great team that finished the assignment DAYS before it was due and I learned a lot. (Note: I did get to choose this group)
The problem is that this assignment went well, and because of that it stands out in my mind as the outlier.
I know that to be prepared for our careers, we need to be able to work in groups. However, in the workplace there is accountability. If you don’t do your job, you lose it. If you don’t do your work in school, you might still manage to pass the class and move on.
Unfortunately, not all students care so when the assignment is due, it often looks something like this.
Regrettably, it doesn’t matter who did all of the work, everyone usually gets the same grade.
So Why Are These So Necessary?
I’ve been very critical, so now might be the time to mention that group projects really do teach a lot. They obviously teach students how to work in a group but they also teach the student about themselves.
In addition, group work teaches collaboration skills, and people management skills. Group work is a lot of giving out deadlines and opening up a Google Doc to make sure everyone does their part. This teaches students what it’s like to rely on another person for an end product. Could one person feasibly do the whole project? Maybe, but if you figure out how to manage your time and issue deadlines, then there is no need.
What Are The Professors Doing About This?
Now you’re probably thinking, doesn’t the professor encourage you to talk to them about a student slacking off? Yes. There is always something in the syllabus that says if there is a member not doing their part, talk to the professor and they will work with you to make a decision.
That’s nice, but here’s the thing, no one is going to do that. You don’t want to be those people who rat out another student. You’ll probably see that student next semester or even this semester in another class.
So group projects are something you learn to endure, because hey, at least I’m learning something.