Gateway to College Learning – Group WorkOn November 5, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
>>Andrew McDonald: I hate group work. That’s
the first thought that many of you have when one of your professors gives a group assignment.
It’s hard to find time for everybody to get together and meet during your busy schedule.
Once you do meet, it’s hard to stay on track and not talk about the game or run down other
rabbit trails. Then when you actually get some work done it’s hard to decide which path
to go down and be able to complete the assignment. Who does what? Some of you go, “It’s my grade.
I don’t want other people affecting my grade in my academic career.” Some of you simply
just say, “I always end up doing everything. Just so the project can get done.” Now some
of you are excited when you hear about a group project, because you think you can kind of
get by with doing little or maybe even nothing. You’re the people who make the people who
hate group work, hate group work. Stop it. So why do professors make those assignments?
We get it; group work is hard. It messes up your schedule. So why do we choose to give
you those assignments? Chapter four’s talked about critical thinking. Group work makes you face personalities that
you’re not used to, that aren’t like you. And when you hear those different perspectives
they challenge you to think differently, to think deeply–to think critically. You have
some people who are active, you have some people who are reflective in the way they
learn. You have some people who are verbal and some people who are visual. So think of
a group. Two active, verbal people, grouped with two people who are reflective and visual.
Kind of sounds like a mess. But what it means is–those visual people will be able to explain
the information and see the information differently than the verbal people. And when you get together
into that learning environment, it challenges you to think differently than you ever have
before. Those different personalities, that agitation, we think that that will help you
understand the material more, better, to think critically about it. To analyze the information
differently, to evaluate the information differently, and then as a group, with those different
personalities, you create something with that information different than you would have
created on your own. The second reason that professors give group
work is because the workforce is dominated by group projects. When you get into the work
force, you’re going to be in groups in companies, working with different people, many of whom
maybe you don’t click with. Maybe you wouldn’t go hang out with them and get a meal with
them or go to a football game with them, but you’re going to be asked to create things
that push your company forward. How are you going to deal with people you don’t click
with? That maybe you don’t even like? Or, when you get into a management position and
you get to choose your team, how are you going to choose a team that’s not just full of a
bunch of people like you who are just yes men? How are you going to make a team that’s
dynamic and creates and pushes you deeper and deeper on the project that maybe you couldn’t
even have done all by yourself? So the next time you’re given that group project, and
your first thought is “I hate group work,” it’s okay. But realize this is an opportunity
for you to think differently about the material than you would on your own. To have thoughts
and to put a project together that maybe you never would’ve created if you had worked independently.
And it’s also an opportunity for you to work on your group dynamics. To figure out how
you can encourage and facilitate other’s learning as they facilitate your learning. Chapter four has some great strategies for
group projects, some things to keep in mind. #1 – Don’t be a social loafer. Allan Ingrum
conducted an experiment in which people were blind folded to play a game of tug of war.
When they thought that they were all by themselves they pulled harder, 18% harder, than when
they thought they were on a team. Don’t do that! Find what you’re passionate about in
the project, and be a part of it. #2 – Turn in your work as early as possible. Everybody’s
working on this project. The earlier that everybody turns it in and is ready to put it
together, the more refined it will be and the better grade you’ll make. #3 – Communicate
with your group through email, through text. As you see each other in class give everybody
an update on how things are going. Go above and beyond. This is something that’s meant
to expand your horizons and will help the group be the best that they can be. And last
is be respectful of other people’s ideas. You’re a part of a group so that you can hear
different things that maybe you wouldn’t have thought of all by yourself. Once you’ve turned in the project, you’re
finished with the group, take few minutes when you’re walking to your next class or
standing in line at the Caf and think about the group. Ask yourself some questions. What
worked well? What came together and you were surprised at the finished product? Why do
you think that was? Who did you like working with? Why? Was it their personality? Were,
were they really good at getting their assignments turned in early? Who wouldn’t you work with
again? And if you were forced to work with that person, what are three things that you
could do to help you click better with them, your personalities to work better together?
To be clear on what assignments are due when and who’s doing what? Doing these things honestly
might not change your opinion on groups. You might still hate group work. But hopefully,
you know that group work is for your good and for the good and the success in your academic
and your professional career. Thank you.