Supposedly, the college experience will bring enlightenment to it’s students and grants them access to the mystical realm of the “real world.”
The favored way for college professors to indoctrinate students into this “real world” is the much-dreaded group project. The idea behind forcing students to work together is nice. After college, in the much-hyped real world, most jobs will require teams of people to collaborate toward a common goal.
The problem with group projects is that the classroom is not the workroom. At a job, people who do not contribute are fired and face losing the ability to meet their financial needs. In college, those who do not contribute to a project or do a poor job still receive the reward of a high grade, since more studious group members will correct their work or even take on the entire project.
Some professors have the foresight to account for slackers in the process by allowing for group members to receive individual participation grades. Those who don’t take that precaution leave the unfortunate souls who care about their grades bearing the weight of the project.
The time commitment required in college also does not resemble the time commitment in the workplace. The average college student has to balance hours of classes and homework, along with a job and any extracurricular activities. At a full-time job, hours can be dedicated to the completion of a group project, since time at a job can be used to work and coordinate the project.
Far too often the packed schedule of college life can turn group projects into a logistical problem. Throughout the week, every college student has classes and commitments that must be attended. So the more people who are added to a group, the greater probability that at least one person will not be able to make any times the other group members can attend. Then, the project turns into a nightmare of coordination and accounting for the inevitable group member’s absence.
Those who have the misfortune of being stuck with a group project often have a task that does not make sense. A favorite among many University of Idaho professors is to assign one long writing assignment to be divided among group members for a group grade. Every person has their own individual writing style, so it is ridiculous to expect that many people to write on one topic and produce a coherent end product.
Furthermore, the core premise behind group projects is flawed. The hope for most professors is the project will teach students interpersonal skills and collaboration. In reality, if at least 18 years of life has not taught you the necessary skills to collaborate with other people, one measly group project is not going to change that.
The atmosphere and experience of college instructs students how to work together far better than group projects ever will. It is impossible to make it through the four-year experience without finding a club, living group, religious group or job that will lead to collaboration with large groups of people. Instead of forcing students into groups for projects, professors foster a campus environment that teaches students interpersonal skills.
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