Group projects provide meaningful experiences

Photo by Georgia Howard

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone complain about or say he or she hated group projects, I would probably never have to worry about finding a job. While I’ve had my fair share of projects with less-than-ideal teammates, I think that professors are actually really onto something when they assign us these projects. After all, you can learn a lot from both negative and positive group project experiences.

First of all, group projects force you to work with your group members. Unfortunately, as we all know, this doesn’t always happen. But this mirrors the real world, where you don’t get to choose your co-workers. Learning how to deal with someone who slacks, is confrontational or is nonresponsive is imperative to have a happy and successful work life.

Moreover, group projects can help you learn to listen to others and respect their ideas. When you begin to truly value what other people think and have to say, you will be much more receptive to their ideas. On top of this, when you listen to what others have to say, they will, in turn, respect you more, whether they realize it or not.

In addition, group projects can also teach you how to effectively communicate your ideas. By learning how to present your ideas to your peers, you are getting good practice for any time you have to stand behind your work in your future job.

However, not everything about a group project is good. One of the worst things about working on a group project is scheduling. With all the extracurriculars available to students, and with some living off campus, scheduling meeting times can quickly become one of the most unavoidably difficult parts of a project.

To me, the function of group projects is more about exposing you to the challenges that many people in the workforce face. Group projects should give you the experience of working as a team, with individual roles and tasks, but they should not be able to drastically alter your grade because of one or more bad group members.

Professors should always dedicate a portion of the rubric to peer evaluations large enough to influence the grade of a student should he or she decide to slack off or not complete his or her work. This will ensure that a bad group member would receive the grade he or she deserves. While the grades of the other group members might still be affected as the final product in the real world might be, they still have the opportunity to receive a good score overall.

Although scheduling problems can be difficult both in school and at work, the benefits that group projects offer far outweigh the bad. Professors should make sure to provide rubrics that will allow a group members to succeed despite other unsatisfactory teammates, and students should begin to approach group projects with a more positive outlook. Doing so will undoubtedly help better prepare students for their future work.