When you enter college, you meet lots of different people. Some people are type A (i.e., Abbi Wilt), some people are team supporters, and some people are just in college to get the degree without the work.
There will be a few of each of these people in every group project, unless you have a professor that intentionally throws the slackers together to see who emerges victorious. I’ve never been in this situation before, because I’m terrible at slacking. No really, I’ve tried to slack before and it doesn’t sit well with me.
Freshman year, your professor throws you into a group project under the explanation that you “will have to work with different types of people some day, so you may as well practice now.” The first group project, okay. I understand this concept. The second group project, okay. The third group project, okay…
Let’s say each of your professors gives you one group project per semester. At five classes a semester, this equals about 10 group projects per year. Over the course of my four years of college, I’ve probably been part of 35 group projects. Do you know how many successful groups I’ve had? Let me share with you – two. Two out of 35. This equals a success rate of 5%. This translates into a 95% unsuccessful rate of group projects.
After the fifth group project, I found myself in a dark pattern – one that sucked life from my soul when the words “Find a group!” were uttered in the classroom. As if I did not already know I was different than the other kids when it came to academics.
For the sake of argument, I would like to present the reasons why I personally believe that group projects are the worst and do not contribute to becoming a well-rounded individual (other than, of course, stress and anger management).
No one has time for their own schedule, much less to deal with the schedule of four other people. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve showed up at the library only to receive a string of “actually can’t make it today” texts. Well, gee. Glad we could get together.
And then, when meetings do occur, what is the appropriate amount of small talk before you get down to business? Do I seem controlling if I walk in and go right to work? Is delegating bossy? Can I mask my tendancy to lead long enough for these other members to think I’m not a completely psychotic perfectionist? Not only are meetings inconvient, but they are often unproductive. If one person is off their game, it throws off the whole group. And, chances are, no one wants to be there.
The other option that’s recently emerged is the online group for the online class. No, please, no. Don’t put this on your students. We hate it when we actually have the chance to work together. Why on earth would I enjoy emailing back and forth, and back, and back, and back again with no answer? This is not fun for anyone.
There’s always that one person with the excuse – whether it be a pet dying or a grandmother’s surgery or an out-of-town wedding. Coupled with the student who disappears for the entire last half of the semester (and yes, this has happened to me) – your group is set up to fail.
I ALREADY KNOW I’M NERDY.
Unfortunately, it’s still not cool to be smart. Maybe some day, but certainly not today. As the one who usually ends up with most of the work in the group project, I can guarantee that my overachieving self does not gain friends or popularity after working in a group project, unless those people didn’t want to actually do anything and I picked up their slack.
I know what it feels like to A) not have anyone want to work with you because you have an incredibly high standard of work, B) not have anyone want to work with you because they think you’re bossy C) have someone only join your group because they think it’s a free pass, and D) be made fun of because you’re known to be the nerdy one who cares too much.
None of the above are particularly enjoyable.
The other option is that the work is done, but it is full of errors. This is equally as frustrating, because then I feel as though it would take me about as much time to rewrite it as it would to edit out the errors. In these situations, I usually take on the role of having everyone send me their pieces prior to submission so that I can make sure it’s top notch.
I understand that this sounds controlling. I am not denying that this role is the easiest for me to take on when it comes to group projects. However, it is simply the result of wanting to do well in school and squeezing what I can from my education.
I DO NOT WANT TO BE AN ANGRY PERSON.
I have actually tried not to take control of a group project, just because I felt like slacking is a skill I should work on. Did it work? No. Instead of someone else in the group project taking the reins – because everyone should have a chance to work on their leadership skills – the project crashed and burned. What do I hate more than having to work with other people that don’t care? Having my name attached to sub-par work.
I think I would be remiss not to mention that I have been a part of one stellar group project. Why was this particular group great? We agreed on mutual deadlines, we did the work evenly, and we all cared about the grade we were getting. This has been my only case of a group who wasn’t just trying to slide by. If they were all like this, I’d be much more enthusiastic about participating.
I’m hoping that pursuing a career in which others are also passionate about their jobs, I will be able to work in teams that care about the work that emerges, rather than just skimming by for a passing grade.
However, if the work is already only being done in the confines of my own brain, I’d prefer for my name to be alone on the cover. Please, for the sake of the students that actually somewhat care about school and their academic successes, save me from the epidemic of group projects.