To group or not to group

Is group work in college helpful or harmful?

by Aditi Pradeep

In our younger days we all relished the idea of group work. It was a guaranteed way to talk to your friends during class and a relief from doing an entire project on your own. It became less about the work that we had to do and more about who we did it with. But does that feeling continue in college?

Two things have changed since our grade school days: time and gravity.

Group projects in college often require a great deal of effort outside the classroom. This means you no longer just have to coordinate your day around the school work but your groupmates’ schedules as well. We’ve all felt the doom of a group with horribly conflicting schedules. Time management is perhaps one the most lucrative yet evasive skills for college students. Even if we manage our time effectively, chances are at least one group member won’t. No longer are we expected to work on projects conveniently allocated during grade school days. Though you may be OK with starting that paper at midnight, we can’t expect the strangers in class to follow suit. Time isn’t the only factor to change; so has the gravity of group assignments.

The biggest adjustment for college students may be just how important each project is for your course grade. Having taken the infamous courses BIOL 2002 and 2003: Foundations of Biology, I know what this is like. A large portion of our final grade was based off a group project we spent an entire semester working on. With such high stakes, doing poorly wasn’t an option. Even if we were graded individually, we still relinquished some control to other students.

So why do teachers continue the tradition of group work? Ultimately, communication skills are an important lesson we learn in college. In any job out there, we’ll have to work with difficult or simply different people. In our career paths, we’ll have to plan around busy schedules and learn to depend on others.

Group work is something vital, not in terms of simply accomplishing a task, but the ability to be collaborative with those in your field. Though natural difficulties will arise, keep in mind the lessons you’ll learn in working with a group