Group Projects: Workplace Preparation or Waste of Time?

Christine Colleran

Group projects prove no easy feat. If you stop pretending to play with your phone and listen to the chatter on the bus or in a campus dining center, many conversations are filled with students moaning about the trials and tribulations stemming from group assignments. We are not original in our complaints either, all of which can be covered in the following: I do all of the work, he/she does none of the work, and we are all too busy to meet.

I myself have been the person on the bus, head in hands, wallowing in self-pity about the current state of one of my group projects. Currently, I sit overwhelmed in the midst of four group projects, all due within 1-3 weeks, all trying to work now- of course. Group projects seem to be an educational trend that just won’t die, yet I am not convinced of their effectiveness.

Yes, I am aware of the basic “advantages” to group assignments. First, they prepare you for the working world where you will be required to work in teams. However, last time I checked, the current working world functions mainly because participants are receiving financial reward for their work.

Remove the financial reward; the level of work will drop. While it may be true that we are receiving an education for our work, the promise of an education seems a much less successful motivator than a pay check. With students less invested in their work we cannot simulate the workplace experience with group projects, and students are left hastily pasting individual work together.

Another supposed advantage to group work is the idea that two heads are better than one. That may be accurate, providing the two heads are relatively competent in the subject area. A struggling student will only hold a successful one back if they are to truly cooperate for a group project. Besides, any Harry Potter reader knows that multiple heads are never a good thing (Fluffy the three-headed dog?).

Finally, many teachers and professors alike maintain that in assigning group-projects they are lightening the load of us students. While this is no doubt true, I am not entirely certain that school is the place where our load should be lightened in this manner. For example, in lifting a heavy piece of furniture, it is ideal to have more than one person helping you- for you do less of the work and expend less energy understanding the best way to lift the furniture. In education, however, one could hardly say that it is good to spend less time understanding the assignment or only completing a part of the required material.

To add insult to injury, nearly every professor I have had has been inclined to assign at least one group assignment. There are often times when students are trying to meet up with four different groups; all while completing other assignments and (sometimes) working.

I do believe that group projects are appropriate in certain academic situations; however, I believe that professors need to apply much more discretion when assigning them.