The G word

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By Kasey McCormick, Assistant Art Director

In four weeks, many students will be celebrating the end of their college careers and the start of life in the real world.   I will be putting more celebration into never having to participate in an unpaid group project again.  Over the past years I’ve had at least one group project each semester, if not more.

Some examples of how groups are formed are assignment by the professor, alphabetical, sitting area, draft pick and self choice. No matter the way the group is formed, it never fails that the professor starts the explanation of group projects with, “I know most of you don’t like group projects, and the slackers that come with them.  I never did either.”  At which point, I desired to ask, “Then why assign the group project in the first place?” But I’ve never actually gotten the courage to ask the question.  I always expected the following answer, “To teach you how to work as a group before entering the real world.”  Comparing college group projects to the real world is not valid.

1. No one can fire the slacker. 2. We should have learned how to work together in kindergarten when we learned to share.  3. Often the product from the group project is typically not of higher quality than what one person or a smaller team could have done together.

Some professors have tried to compensate for the slacker by having peer evaluations at the end of the group project.  This way everyone has a chance to evaluate the work of their group members.  This can make people work a little harder, but often times it just means more people will put on a mask of cooperation rather than blunt disinterest in the project.

If by the time a person has started college they don’t possess the ability to work together, it is not likely that doing a group project will teach them teamwork.

“Group projects in college tend to be a divide and conquer situation, as opposed to a true collaboration,”  Laura Elliot, a 2010 communications graduate of UNO said.  Finding time outside of class to meet is nearly impossible with school, work and family, especially in groups of three or more. There are always issues with schedules interfering, even if everyone in the group has a high level of motivation.

I don’t hate group projects, and I have learned from them. In fact, I’ve met some close friends I probably would have never talked to if we weren’t in a group project together.  There have been some original and creative ideas from other members that I would have never thought of.  Group projects are not useless.

The most successful group formation I’ve encountered is a draft pick style done in my advertising class.  Everyone turned in a resume and included the job they desired.   Then the professor chose the CEO, or leader, who then chose the rest of the members of the group by looking at resumes.  The resumes were anonymous, with names and contact information blacked out.  Therefore, the group was solely chosen on desired job and information on the resume.   It was not a foolproof method, but seemed to form better working groups.

Group projects seem to be a necessary evil of college classes. Exactly why, I have yet to determine. However, if it must be done, I’d rather the professor tell us the subject matter and background information before the group work actually starts. This way each member can individually come up with solutions before the group forms to avoid group think and aid in better creativity. Just because it is a group project does not mean group think is required or that the divide and conquer method is best suited to complete the project.

In a few short weeks, I enter the real world to participate in more collaborative environments.  But I am grateful to be able to put my days of college group projects behind me. 

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