Print Edition: May 8, 2013
Get fucked, group work. Or more specifically, group assignments. No one should have their own marks suffer because of the clowns they were put into a group with.
At all levels of education, teachers and professors alike almost always insist on group work of some kind. However, I think I can break down the big misunderstanding about group work by making a distinction between a group discussion (the sharing of ideas) and a group assignments (compiling shared ideas for marks).
I like group discussion because it allows you to hear other perspectives and engage the content in ways that you would have never entertained if you were working solo. It forces you to make meaning of course content for yourself rather than relying on your instructor for all the answers. It’s also easier for people who are somewhat shy to be able to share their ideas in a more comfortable setting of a few faces instead of the entire room. Plus, you get to meet new people and find some buddies in your class who you can get notes from if you miss a day. Everybody wins.
But this is where that distinction comes in because that’s not always the reality, is it? We students know that a well-executed group discussion rarely happens – it heavily depends on the willingness of that particular group of students, not to mention the course content and the professor. Often, when group work is introduced into the classroom, the instructor makes it a group assignment instead of a group discussion, which, as we all know, means that other people’s lack of effort can and will negatively impact your own grades. And frankly, it’s a crock of crap.
I hate group assignments with every fibre of my being. I don’t know if everyone’s experience with group assignments is the same as mine, or whether I’ve just always ended up with shitty groups, but I cannot stand them. Any group assignment I have ever done has left a bad taste in my mouth, if not ended in complete disaster.
In one class, my group conspired to pretend I wasn’t a part of the group at all, and then dumped a good chunk of the assignment on me at the last second without warning. I had an assignment for another class where my partner told me at 7 p.m. that she needed my contributions by 7:15 p.m. so that she could finish putting things together before her 8 p.m. bedtime. As a result, she was well-rested for our presentation the next day with her 16 hours of sleep, whereas I had scraped maybe three hours at most for myself and felt like death was upon me. Oh, and by the next class, she dropped out. Go figure.
What was the last straw? A little while ago, I had been working on a group assignment for one of my classes and my group had allotted each person with different duties which everyone agreed upon beforehand. Things were looking good, and everything was going just swimmingly. But then, at the last minute, I found out my group had been emailing me stuff to the wrong address, and simultaneously dumped the largest portion of writing on me the day before it was due. Come on, guys. If you couldn’t do what you said you could from the beginning, then why the crap did you volunteer to do so in the first place? Suddenly, everyone else was busy with their other assignments, midterms and presentations.
This ain’t my first rodeo so I didn’t bite off more than I could chew from the start and managed my time accordingly. Due to their own poor time management, both of my group members decided that they were incapable of doing any more and left it up to me to clean up their mess. The way they decided this was through emails that didn’t include me since they used the wrong email address. I mean, come on!
I could have just not done it. But then my marks would have suffered. And so, once again, I found myself picking up the slack of my genius group members’ lack of work ethic. Story of my life.