It’s no secret that group projects probably top the list of students’ least favorite assignments in any discipline, content area, or academic level. They carry a universal level of disdain and are typically very “hit or miss” on the quality of the final product, leaving students everywhere wondering why they continue to receive these dreaded group assignments.
Professors assign group projects because they decrease everyone’s workload. Students share work responsibilities and professors have fewer items to grade. Group work is standard pedagogy that teaches students valuable soft skills and helps to keep the course work interesting and engaging.
In this article, I’ll discuss in more detail each of the reasons that professors assign group projects. I’ll also describe some tips to help you and your group be successful during your next assignment.
Group Projects Reduce Everyone’s Workload
In a world where we are constantly asked to do more with less, and where most people are already stretched too thin, it’s important to collaborate when possible. Whether you’re a student at any stage in your academic career or a professor, chances are that you have days when you don’t know how you’ll get everything done.
Group projects help maintain accountability and keep all members engaged in the work. This helps you from falling into the productivity trap where you are putting things off or maybe finding it difficult to feel motivated. (If you’re feeling this way, check out this article which talks about whether you should worry about not feeling productive).
Sharing the load helps to free up time for you to focus on what you’re good at, while leveraging the skills of your fellow students to help complete a quality project. Not to mention, now your professor has one assignment to grade instead of five, so it’s a win-win.
Sharing the workload can help reduce unnecessary stress and improve your mental health, topics that are extremely important to every student.
Group Work Fosters Valuable Career Skills
Student collaboration is a standard pedagogical technique that’s used from preschool all the way into post-graduate course work. Interestingly, the same kinds of skills that the littles learn from working together are reinforced in adults when they work on group projects. That’s because these soft skills are so important that they are taught and practiced all throughout our lives, both in an educational context and in the workforce.
- Communication skills
- Handling conflict
These skills are valuable assets for careers in any industry. When students are compelled to work together toward a common goal, they practice and develop the interpersonal skills that are becoming increasingly valuable to those who make hiring decisions.
Tips for Working With Groups
Here’s where I’m going to give you some advice about how to make the most of your group project assignment and hopefully be successful as a team. If you’re thinking that you don’t need any tips, I recommend that you check out this video about why some people don’t listen to advice. (And then come back and read the tips, of course!)
Engage right away
This is so important for successful group work. Take initiative to get in touch with the other members if you need to, and then get to work right away starting with the first meeting. Oftentimes, it takes a little while to develop a group dynamic where you all are working well together, so you should definitely get started as soon as possible.
Volunteer to take notes!
During your first meeting and follow-ups, it’s a good idea to have someone in charge of taking notes for the group. There will be a lot of content during your meetings and you’ll be able to work through many topics if you treat it like a brainstorming session.
After the meeting, you can summarize everyone’s ideas and identify weak areas and the areas where you seem to be covered. This gives the group an idea of where you need to focus your attention first and allows you to make shared priorities.
It’s also really nice to have some neat, typed up records of what you’ve been working on to refer back to.
No one loves group projects, but they’re a reality of the academic world. Instead of focusing on how much you despise them, look at how you can potentially benefit from sharing the workload and developing your collaboration skills. As a team, you can produce work that you’re proud of and maybe even discuss overcoming the challenges in a future job interview! Everyone likes a team player.
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