As students, we’ve all been in the situation before: the stress of end-of-the-year papers, projects and upcoming finals is exacerbated by those annoying group projects. There’s that one member who bails every time the group gets together, and the other who can only get together on Wednesdays between 2 and 5 p.m. Even if every member cooperates, the stress that they may not is always there.
I can’t help but let out exasperated sighs whenever my classes require group projects, especially for core or non-major classes. At this point in our lives, we’ve been put through the gauntlet of group projects throughout our younger school years and have been socialized enough to no longer need a class to teach us how to work together.
Apparently, many teachers don’t agree and insist there are legitimate reasons for group work.
“In the labor force and later on in academic careers, a lot of work is done collaboratively,” sociology professor Kimberly Goyette said. “There’s always room for learning how to make the process smoother. Some college kids still don’t know how to interact with people.”
Most careers will require collaboration, which is why I understand, and don’t sigh as heavily, when my journalism teachers require a group reporting project. I know that in a real job that just might be the case.
But having group papers and speeches required by teachers for core classes makes little sense. First, most of the students in a core class are taking it because they have to, not because they have interest in the subject. Students tend to approach these classes with more of a slacker attitude, especially when they’re swamped with work for classes they really care about.
For example, my current environmental science core class has not one science major, nor do most students know much of anything about biology or ecology. Yet, we are required to get in groups, write a paper and give an oral presentation about an environmental issue of our choosing. Instead of learning a lot about a topic, I’m only learning about the small chunk that has been relegated to me. Group projects don’t give students a holistic learning experience.
“A lot of times, students will turn in a paper that’s generated in their own head, but group projects give students a chance to talk with other people,” Goyette said. “Other students can question that student’s assumptions and reasoning. It helps to have to explain things to your colleagues in order to write a good paper or do a good project.”
Even if group projects are really necessary, most teachers have imperfect timing when assigning these projects. Most of the time, teachers save group projects for last, apparently hoping that students will regard it as a type of capstone in which they will put a lot of effort. But in the time approaching finals, group projects simply create unneeded stress and inconveniences for everyone.
While there are some good reasons for group projects, a collaboration learning experience should be relegated to pre-college years and major classes only. In that way, our grades and sanity won’t suffer needlessly.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at email@example.com.