Group Projects Can Burden Students

Madison Alvarado, Staff Writer

Although many teachers consider group work to be a vital part of the learning experience, it can place unneeded stress on students who end up shouldering most of the work or presenting when other group members have not completed their designated part. I’m not saying we should get rid of group work—if done correctly, it can be very beneficial to students in teaching them how to work with others in addition to improving comprehension. However, a lot of the time, group projects don’t go as smoothly as hoped.

Several issues can arise in group projects. The one that is most often complained about at Miramonte is when one “smart” person in the group ends up doing most (or all) of the work. These students end up resenting their peers for not contributing, and have to cope with the added stress of more tasks. For this reason, a lot of teachers include a peer review at the end of group projects. Although it does allow the teacher to see who really did the work and may motivate students who might otherwise slack off, peer evaluations don’t help reduce the workload of the student who is forced to do more than their share of the project. There is an issue of trust between students, some of whom are worried that their peers will not complete their designated parts. These students fear if they don’t do this extra work, no one will. Many teachers are unsympathetic towards groups who haven’t completed their project by the due date.

Another issue that can arise with group assignments is when one student is overbearing or aggressive towards others. When this happens, the most beneficial part of the group project process—the pooling of ideas to maximize creativity and collaboration—is often lost. In these cases, students can be scared of sharing their thoughts for fear of being seen as incompetent or “dumb”.

The last reason why group projects can cause problems for students is because of the lack of communication between peers. When students don’t have the means to contact other group members this can pose a serious issue. One would think with the rise of technology and the smart phone that communication would be easy; however, this problem still persists. People don’t check a Google Doc, show up to class, or the most dreaded: they give you the wrong phone number so you can’t bother them. Although the last option isn’t a common occurrence, lack of communication can cause serious problems.

It is not a reality that group projects be eradicated and I honestly don’t think that doing so would benefit anyone. Most of us will have to collaborate with people we don’t necessarily like or agree with at some point in the future and group projects at school will help prepare us for that. However, that doesn’t mean that every group assignment should be hell on earth. It is always an added bonus when a teacher includes a peer eval to make sure the students who put in the work are rewarded with a grade they deserve. Teachers that don’t already do so could also consider grading members of a group individually for their part of the project instead of dishing out the same grade to every person. However, the main responsibility of divvying up parts of a group assignment falls on the shoulders of the students. Although it’s not possible to control our peers, if each student made a concerted effort to do their part, not be overbearing, and communicate with other members of their group, projects would flow smoothly and everyone would be happy. Of course that’s in a perfect world, so in regards to group projects, for now we should just buckle up and pray for the best.