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Group work: the scourge of college students

No, it’s not preparing us for future jobs

Not pictured: arguments, sleepless nights and Brad, who didn’t show up

Most every person has been dragged into group work in one class or another. During each of these experiences the familiar characters pop-up: the slackers who do nothing, the leaders who take charge and dole out roles and the bystanders who take on whatever work they are assigned.

For years teachers have tried reassuring students that group work is ‘valuable’ and will help prepare students for their future careers. In all honesty, this seems like a load of crap. Group work is nothing more than a practice in extreme patience. The only thing it teaches students is skills in developing distaste towards group work. It’s about time we do away with this method of ‘learning’.

Classes, especially in the STEM fields, are very big into group work. Most labs on campus rely on a class structure based solely on group work. Most professors in these classes like to remind students that working in groups will mirror what their future jobs. A lot of them also say that learning cooperative skills are an essential component of gaining a college education.

Again, this type of thinking just doesn’t hold up. If individuals have made it nearly two decades without learning cooperative skills, it’s doubtful that a two-hour-a-week lab will do the trick. People don’t understand how to work with others through forced partnership, but rather gain these skills through an intrinsic desire to assist others. 

Not only this but in truth, group work is really nothing like what professional atmospheres will look like. Sure, as anyone who has ever had a job can tell you, there’s always one person who slacks off. However, when someone doesn’t do their share, as is always the case with group work, you don’t get fastened to them for weeks or months at a time. You know why? Because they get fired.

Even if it were the case that you someday work in an environment with unenergized dunces, you still would have the incentive of money to keep you going and the opportunity to leave the job should you choose. It’s not exactly as if students can choose not to take a major-requirement just because the class has group work.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of student you are when doing group work, you’re losing either way. If you’re like me, and you always feel like you end up doing most of the work, your grades in other classes struggle while you put in the effort of multiple people. If you’re the slacker in the group, you may get off easy, but you don’t end up understanding any of the concepts you’re spending money to learn.

Then there are the teachers. Supposedly they’re teaching us life skills. My theory? It’s a whole lot easier to grade ten group projects than forty individual projects. Most of the time, teachers are open to sending out peer evaluations to divvy up grades fairly. However, this method is too little too late. Once the work is done and the stress has been endured, a good grade is a little solace for all the time spent worrying about a project.

If class material is too overwhelming for teachers to handle all the student’s evaluations separately, then the repercussions of that material shouldn’t be put on the students but should be altered to be easier to handle.

Group work doesn’t build character, it breaks people’s character in two. Group work isn’t a lesson in how to work with others but a reminder that some others are impossible to work with. More than anything, it’s just one more thing on a college student’s plate that just doesn’t need to be there.

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