Grades, Politics and Work Ethic: The Trinity of Group Projects

Cartoon by Samuel Sherrill

Every college student has the same story … Practically worked your heart out on a group project, started the group messaging board, and for sure came through clutch when, as always, something goes differently than planned. You did all of this, just to have some lazy, half hearted freeloader,  drag down the entire group’s grade in the end.

Oh, but don’t forget about all of the politics. We have all been dropped in the middle of the group that was already “clicked in,” a group of friends that have no desire to work with you. A political scuffle ensues and you end up getting stomped all over in the “anonymous reviews,” causing the professor to give you a bogus low participation grade.

So here is the question that we’ve all asked ourselves: did we really pay to have our grades depend on others?

The SUU Journal Editorial Board’s thoughts on group work are, for lack of better terms, simple and concise. Group work is a pain,  but they are experiences necessary for our futures.

Group work is, as professors preach, intended to give students opportunities to practice communication, critical thinking, management, roles within groups and assessment skills.

Many students here will find themselves employed at some point after college, and according to research done by Washington University Teaching Center, it is estimated that about 80 percent of all employees work in group settings. This makes communication skills and the ability to work in diverse groups extremely valuable and essential in the job market.

This being said, we all have stories much like the one previously mentioned. The Journal Board has some opinions on changes in the group project practicum that could help.

It is our opinion that assignments need to be designed to ensure that everyone in the group will have to participate actively. Second, there needs to be accountability for the individual’s reviews of their teammates. Lastly, there needs to be a standard on the kind of assignments we are put through. They need to help us prepare to work with others in the real world, and not just take time away from lectures so that we can “communicate” with our peers.

As group work is sure to be an ever present situation for the rest of our college and professional careers, here are some tips to help out.

  1. Get a handle on the fact that you might have to step up and assume a leadership role.  
  1. Remember that this will help you in real life.  
  1. Stay positive.  Having an upbeat attitude could help others do the same.
  1. Communicate! Save yourself a bunch of headaches by making sure that everyone is on the same page.  
  1. Stand up for yourself. Group projects can bring out the best and the worst in people; either way, bring your game face and don’t let others get you down.  
  1. This too will end. Nothing lasts forever, especially in college.

In the end, the answer to the question, “did we really pay to have our grades depend on others?” is, yes. We did in fact pay to be given opportunities to learn things in a classroom that will be ever present in our futures.

By Savannah Palmer
and SUU Journal Editorial Board