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The case against group projects

Collaborations in class lead to unnecessary stress

Amanda Hall, Reporter

When most students hear the word “group project,” they moan with dread of the impending doom of stress and lazy group mates. I am that student too. My greatest fear as a Type A “control freak” and perfectionist is that I will be put into a group with students who don’t care about what grade they get. The stakes are even higher for those of us on scholarships where one bad grade can lower the class grade and potentially lower the GPA and, in the worst case, lead to the loss of scholarships. When most students hear the word “group project,” they moan with dread of the impending doom of stress and lazy group mates. I am that student too. My greatest fear as a Type A “control freak” and perfectionist is that I will be put into a group with students who don’t care about what grade they get. The stakes are even higher for those of us on scholarships where one bad grade can lower the class grade and potentially lower the GPA and, in the worst case, lead to the loss of scholarships.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that the required group projects can be a great teaching tool. Teamwork is an element in the Texas Core Curriculum to ensure well-rounded students. The objective of the teamwork element in Texas Core Curriculum is for students to gain the “ability to consider different points of view and to work effectively with others to support a shared purpose of goal,” according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. However, even with these hopeful objectives, the cons can outweigh the pros based on how the group project is formatted. Last semester, I completed four major group projects. What I learned is that how the project is graded can make a huge difference in how much stress the project can create.

I had an instructor, David Adams, whose teaching philosophy around group work “is for each student to have a deeper understanding on the topic through discussion and self-evaluation and that this commitment will show in each students’ presentation or portion of the assignment.” Based on this philosophy, it makes sense now why Adams chose to grade the group projects based on the individual work each person did instead of the group as a whole. Adams’s method of grading saved me a lot of worrying. After my group divided up the presentation, I only had to worry about preparing my part of the presentation. Being graded individually took away the stress and pressure of having a slacker in our group.

On the flip side, I had one of my worst group project experiences last semester. The project grade was based on the group’s final product. Being the unofficial leader, I tried my best to encourage my other group mates to contribute to the project. However, my teammates did not have the same expectations I did. The group project was a large percentage of the final grade, and to maintain my scholarships, I needed a good grade. So even when my group mates didn’t help as much as I would have liked, I had to get the work done. In the end, my group received an A with little thanks to my group mates. This experience could have been avoided if we were graded individually based on the amount and quality of the work we individually did.

So yes, group work is a vital ,and required part of college and can improve education and life skills. However, the formatting of the group project as well as grading should be evaluated to find a more painless way to achieve the same results. Some options could include ungraded in-class discussion and activities, group quizzes that allow for discussion and group projects and presentations that are graded individually.

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