Group Projects: What’s Going On?

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Charlotte Weghorst, Writer

The phrases, “Teamwork is the Dreamwork” and, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’!” have been engrained into the minds of students for decades. Though, this form of, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,” still has its flaws and strengths within today’s education system. With the everyone holding different views on group projects and a ton of studies on this topic, there’s both pros and cons behind group projects.

Amir Rasooli, a doctoral candidate in education assessment at Queen’s University, Canada, and Susan M. Brookhart, professor emerita in the School of Education at Duquesne University, said, “Group projects have a bad reputation among students.” Often, students are simply put into a group, given a task to fulfill, and the same grade is given to every student in the team. This type of “group grading” might be easier for the teacher, but it often leads to negative experiences for students. This system is seen by experts to be an unreasonable method of grading. In the article, “Planning for Fair Group Work” it states, “For grading purposes, assess individuals— don’t give ‘group grades.’ It encourages free-riding and provokes unfair experiences for students.” Often, students feel their own work is stolen by those who have done none within the project, bringing down their own grade and bringing about a negative setting. In “Planning for Fair Group Work” it states, “When group grades are given to groups with mixed ability levels, high-ability students often receive lower grades than they usually get individually; the reverse is true for low-ability students.” Piper Lang, sixth grader, said, “I think if you’re doing more than two people groups, there’s definitely at least one slacker and one person that does all the work. Those people in between that are like ‘What can I do?’ and then they just do little parts along the way.”

While there’s a long list of weaknesses this practice puts forward. There is also list of positives to group work within schools. For example, teachers often put students into group projects in order foster specific traits within the student, including cooperation among peers and to promote positive interdependence among group members. These traits are seen as essential within today’s working environment and as a crucial 21-century skill. Group work can even enhance critical thinking among students. This ability must be fostered early, as its vital in the workplace. Makenzie McGhee, seventh grader, said, “There’s usually a project at least once a week,” showing how these skills are needed often, in both the class space and meeting room.

For the classroom to take a firm grip on this method there are ways educators can improve students’ experiences within group projects. As the article, “Planning for Fair Group Work” stated, “Careful task design and role scaffolding can reduce free-riding and develop group members’ collaborative learning skills.” To translate, giving students a framework to follow so they can more easily understand their role within the group project, will allow them to flourish. Giving the students structure, assigning roles, giving a detailed outline of what the end project should look like, and evenly distribute responsibilities among them are all ways to improve the experiences of students. These methods can allow the students to know which part of the project they are being graded on and, in turn, discourage freeloading amongst them.

In addition, educators should avoid both “group grading” and “peer reviews” as students can simply overrate themselves and their peers. Another way is by assigning students’ places and jobs within the group and keeping track of their individual contributions to the project. It’s the most effective way of grasping what an individual has been involved in and contributed toward. A final way of improving student’s experiences with group projects is to have them use virtual whiteboards for them to properly organize and express their ideas. Some virtual platforms which are often used in group settings include Mural, MindMeister, and Stormboard. With all these individual tactics, educators can enhance and improve the experiences of their students.

While group work is vital to a student’s success outside of school, it’s still a flawed method which must be worked on by educators. Student’s feel this system isn’t fair to every kid involved due to the dynamics of group projects, but group work has too many positives in the workplace, even if it leaves a sour taste in their mouths. However, teachers can diverge from the common setup and allow student’s experiences with group work to improve by making changes within their classrooms.

 

Sources and resorces:

Rasooli, Amir, and Susan M. Brookhart. “Planning for Fair Group Work: Group Projects Have a Bad Reputation among Students–but Educators Can Change That.” Educational Leadership, vol. 78, no. 9, Summer 2021, pp. 44–49. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mih&AN=151279091&site=ehost-live.

University, Carnegie Mellon. “What Are the Benefits of Group Work? – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University.” What Are the Benefits of Group Work? – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University, https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/benefits.html.

Hodges, Julia. “Why ‘Group Projects’ Need to Go (and What Should Take Their Place).” Redesigning High School, 18 Apr. 2019, https://redesigningschool.org/why-group-projects-need-to-go-and-what-should-take-their-place/.

University, Carnegie Mellon. “What Are Best Practices for Designing Group Projects? – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University.” What Are Best Practices for Designing Group Projects? – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University, https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/design.html.

“Group Work and Roles.” CSUSM, https://www.csusm.edu/iits/services/ats/idesign/cougarcourses/guides/groups-best-practices/index.html.

University, Saint Leo. “7 Tips to More Effectively Work on Group Projects.” Welcome to Saint Leo University, 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.saintleo.edu/blog/7-tips-more-effectively-work-group-projects.

Knutson, Jeff. “Setting up Effective Group Work.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational

Foundation, 11 Jan. 2018, https://www.edutopia.org/article/setting-effective-group-work