One thing that students will encounter in college classes is group projects. I do not know anymore who does not cringe when hearing that they have to do a group project. Group projects are not high on anyone’s list of ideal class activities, except professors, who seem to love to assign them. We all know what group projects are supposed to teach us: teamwork, collaboration, compromise, time management and everything else we should expect in the work place. But, let us be honest. Are the group projects really teaching us anything, or are they just causing us unnecessary stress? To answer that question, your professor would reply, “Well, then you need to communicate with your teammates.” Oh really? (Good idea! Never thought of that.) We all are smart enough to know that to be a group that achieves its goals, communication is key. The problem is deeper than that. I have been part of plenty of group projects throughout high school and my time here at ISU. Every experience is different. Talking with my peers and my own experiences have helped me come to the conclusion of why group projects are not working.
Group projects allow students who would normally put in little effort to put in no effort, because they have others to carry the project. As opposed to an individual assignment, the student would fail if they did not complete it. A kind of a “free pass”, if you will. I am not saying that all students flake on group projects, but for those who do not carry their weight, that is exactly what it is. That is why, for example, my 15-year-old brother, who is making a piñata for his Spanish class, chose to create it all on his own. Why would he stress himself if he did not have to, to work with other classmates of his who have other priorities other than the project?
Professors cannot be that naïve. They have to know that group projects are not teaching some students as much as they should. If all else fails, do professors hope that even if students are not interested in participating, they will observe how their peers are acting, and learn from them? Maybe, but in my opinion, it is not the students’ job to teach other students. It stems back to other things I have written about before. If you want to be successful, you will put in the effort. So if some of your group members are not pulling their weight, more often than not, you can assume that they are preoccupied with other things and/or are not motivated to work hard and contribute. This is unfortunate but it is what it is. Throughout our lives, we are going to encounter people who will not put the effort in we normally would. If we have to take part in group projects, we might as well make them a lesson for learning how to cope and still succeed.