The case of the dreaded group project

One of the main focuses of colleges worldwide is broadening students’ understanding of various issues, not only by looking at the big picture, but also by analyzing and interpreting details. Colleges achieve this goal through different means, like course work, volunteering, out-of-class activities, and even Greek life. The difference between colleges and other learning institutions is that responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the student. The student gets to choose whatever pathway to success they want to follow.

College courses bring the topic of group work into play. Group work allows students to perform a certain task working together as a unit. Group work also broadens diversity and enriches the perspectives of each person in the group. It allows people to show the areas they are strongest in while learning from others about the areas where they fall short. Group work is also one of the best ways to get students to mingle, exchange ideas, or form friendships, all while learning something vital in each course.

However, group work can also be the heaviest burden a student can bear. It requires effort from every member of the group, which can range anywhere from two students to however many a lecturer sees fit.

Group participation in many instances ends up becoming another issue all the same. Some group members may not be concerned about the project until its final minutes, while others may not even be concerned at all. This ends up becoming a problem for those who intend to bring out the best in the group or plan on receiving a good grade in the course. My personal preference is toward working alone but, whenever I find myself in a group, I always learn something new.

Students here at Minnesota State University all have different thoughts on group work — some feel that they work well in groups, while others prefer to work alone.

Hailey Gorman, an Environmental Science major, felt the situation depends more on the course. In courses that had a lab, she would rather work in groups but in other courses for example those that entail a good amount of reading or critical thinking she would rather take up the tasks independently.

Suhan Budhathoki, an Information Technology major, would prefer to rely solely on himself, as he would feel unbound and could perform a task to his satisfaction without having to worry about other people.

Jessica Bew, a Linguistics major, and Saroj Bhetawal, an Electric Engineering graduate, reported being in the same boat as Budhathoki, but they agreed that the format of the course also comes into play.

Paige Schuh, a social worker, also fell under the “work-alone” category and stated that the individualized study setting she grew up with was probably the reason why she now prefers to work alone, although she did admit that she could adapt if a course required her to work in groups.

Group work is a very important preparation tool for the real world, where tasks are often assigned to teams. Everyone requires a sense of support even if they believe they have the capacity to achieve a task alone with ease. Working alone is also essential for teaching independence and personal responsibility. The type of work to be done also plays a huge role in determining whether students want to participate in group work or take up the challenge independently.

All in all, working alone is noble, but working in groups divides the tasks and multiplies the success.

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