Group projects do not represent post-graduate work in ‘real world’

We’re all in the thick of it right now. The final stretch of the spring semester. Most of us have been tasked with the inevitable reality of group project difficulties in the midst of all the chaos the end of a semester brings.

We all are dealt absurd schedule strains and uncontrollable challenges each semester.

Personally, as a senior within weeks of my graduation, I have many final tasks to fulfill apart from school. It is a frantic period of time, quite frankly, in which many of us seniors are finishing classes to either fill a minimum hour requirement or complete segments in our degree track (in some cases it’s both).

For some, group projects take priority over other school assignments. For others, group projects are secondary to other things in life such as work, other class assignments or non-school related activities. However, everyone faced with the same dilemma – balancing group project responsibilities with other responsibilities – is forced to choose what will take precedence over the other.

I’m not saying every assignment should be a group project, or that group projects are the ultimate barometer for whether you’ll do well in the workforce or not. I’m also not saying group projects have nothing good to offer, or that they don’t lend themselves to certain assignments that just make more sense to be group-oriented.

However, there seems to be hardly any consideration for some teachers of when it’s appropriate to assign group projects. Teachers do like to throw around this justification, that group projects are the best representation of working in the “real word” and that’s good enough for them to assign a group project. But I believe there is still a debate to be had on whether group projects, by and large, are beneficial to learning and the betterment of the students.

I will say that group projects can do things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible or practical if the project was individual.

With group projects, teachers can assign bigger portions of work with the expectation of it being divided up in the group. Also, group projects allow students to be accountable to others, ensuring the assignment does, in fact, get done.

Furthermore, there is at least some merit to the claim that group work is a representation of what a lot of work-place environments will be for many of the students in the future. Learning to be a good team player and cooperating with other people for a common goal is an important skill that can only be done through experience.

But the main issue with this argument is the simplistic claim that, “It’ll be like this when you graduate and work somewhere else, too.”

This argument should be rightfully contested. There are obvious discrepancies between working on group projects for school, and working on a group project in the workforce. For one, most people in the workforce don’t have to balance a full-day schedule of school and part-time work while also dedicating good-quality work to the group. In addition, most people in the workforce don’t have to simultaneously work on five to six group projects at a time that have nothing to do with each other.

I could go on with the obvious differences between the two scenarios, but the issue is that these differences are glazed over by many teachers assigning group projects in their consideration (or lack thereof) when deciding they will assign a group project or not.

Again, none of this is to say group projects are utterly useless and should be banned from higher education. However, I do think some teachers need to take a harder look at whether a group project is appropriate or not for their sake as well as the students’.

The simplistic justification of it being similar to the “real world” is rather careless and lazy, in my opinion. That perspective does have some merit, and I’m not completely dismissing it. But if it’s just that, a simplistic claim with no backing, I don’t think any argument could make any progress.

Let’s evaluate why group projects take such a prominent role in higher education and develop the best way of incorporating its positive values while phasing out its negative aspects.

Jeffrey Swindoll is a senior journalism major from Miami, Fla. He is sports editor for the Lariat.