The gripes with group projects go on

Group work is not always the best solution in a classroom setting.

The gripes with group projects go on

As an English major, I have grown accustomed to writing papers. I knew what I was getting myself into when I chose this area of study, and I was comfortable with that.

There is a certain rhythm to the academic paper writing process. You sit down and choose a thesis, a structure and supporting textual evidence. It’s like putting a puzzle together: you have an idea of what it is going to look like in the end, getting to that point can be a little tricky and once it’s completed you feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Give me a 10-page paper assignment and I’ll gladly do it. But mention the words “group project” and I’ll groan. I’m not saying I won’t participate, because I most definitely will, but I may not be the happiest camper about it.

The problem with group projects is that you either love them or you hate them. In my experience, there is really no in-between. What is it about group projects that causes such a divide in curriculum? One idea could be that some major classes are simply more cohesive to a group study environment.

Certain fields require more collaboration than others on a daily basis. Perhaps it makes more sense for business classes to have these group projects rather than a studio arts class. That is all well and good in theory, but the trouble most often lies in the execution.

Trusting another peer to get their work done in a timely and organized fashion can be difficult for some people, especially those who thrive in a more independent setting. Even though we are in college, there are still students who procrastinate, free load or don’t do any significant work at all. As a result of this, one person ends up doing the majority of the work. At that point, it can’t even be rightly called a collaborative effort because it has morphed into an independent product.

The fact that Hamline is a smaller university could either benefit or deter the productivity of group work.

On the one hand, our small campus community allows students to get to know each other well. Each day, I tend to see the same people walking around campus and I say hello to many on my way to class. Because of these types of relationships, we hold ourselves more accountable.

This is to say that we have the opportunity to work on group projects with people we know. If we know them on a higher level than just having a class with them, then there is more motivation to get work done and not let one another down.

That being said, there is a downside to recognizing so many people on a campus. Once you get into your major classes at Hamline, you usually have classes with a lot of the same people. If each of these classes have group projects, you could potentially end up working with the same people rather consistently.

In some instances, this could be a good thing. Maybe you work particularly well with a certain small group. On the flip side, if you really clash with certain people in your major it could be a drag to end up with them for more than one project.

Whether or not colleges create a positive environment for group work is still up for debate. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter if a student is a fan of them or not, because if you want to pass a class you need to do what is necessary.

Rebecca Jackson of Psychology Today wrote the article “Why Group Projects Fail” to further explore the idea of group work as a whole. She believes that the effectiveness of group projects is foggy, but the majority of the time they are not successful in the sense that students are not getting fulfillment or gaining knowledge from the experience. In order to achieve a more well rounded outcome, she suggests that roles within the group need to be clearly defined and communication between the participants needs to be clear and consistent.

I think that for college students, the communication part could be seen as the most difficult. With so much going on in our everyday lives, things like “checking in” with group members can slip someone’s mind. Regardless, Jackson offers a good perspective on the topic. Next time you find yourself in a group project, make sure everything is as clearly discussed between group members as possible. Unlike being involved in a group project, no one ever complained about being too prepared.