Students and professors weigh in on group projects

Bethany Johnson

How to become a better group member:

1. Be open-minded to all ideas, but don’t be afraid to have your own opinion.

2. Have a positive attitude.

3. Be reliable and consistent.

4. Good communication is key — let group members know if you can’t attend a meeting, aren’t going to make a deadline, etc.

5. Be available and willing to work around other schedules

Jennifer Misiak, junior exercise science major, had one thing to say about group projects.

“Hate is a strong word, and I can safely say I hate group projects,” Misiak said. “Basically, they suck ass.”

Hallie Kercher, senior communication studies major, had a similar opinion about group projects.

Kercher said she benefits more from working individually and rarely prefers group work in a classroom setting, but has been lucky enough to have had more positive than negative group project experiences.

“Although I don’t prefer them, I haven’t really experienced any horrible group projects yet,” Kercher said. “But I’ve heard many horror stories … I have a friend doing a group project for a class now and [her group partners] are really mean to her and always laugh at anything she has to say. Whenever she comes up with an idea, they will immediately shoot her down.”

Kaitlin Walker, sophomore communication studies major, had a negative experience while working in a group for a math class project. But she says she only dislikes group projects in certain courses.

“They aren’t always horrible, and I actually really enjoy creative group projects,” Walker said. “But it’s math. It’s horrible already. Students should only be forced to work on it individually.”

Jae Eun Chung, assistant communication studies professor, said she has almost always implemented group work in her courses and will continue to do so.

“Some students just don’t like the idea of group projects,” Chung said. “And that’s the reason why at the beginning of every course I teach, I make it crystal clear there is going to be group work. I tell students if they don’t like it, they should probably take another class.”

Chung said she used to give students the option of group work on a 10-to-12-page research project, but students choosing to write the paper felt overwhelmed, and their grades slipped.

“I’ve found that it works better for students to do some particular projects as a group,” Chung said. “When you are in a group, it’s easier to divide up the work amongst each other.”

Chung said this is one of many reasons.

“I believe a course is more fun when students have a chance to interact and work in a group setting,” Chung said. “And there are many students who are more likely to talk in a smaller group setting than they are in a larger classroom environment. In a larger setting, they may never raise their hands or share ideas. Even if what they have to say is brilliant.”

Zumba fitness instructor Danielle Novotny said she chooses to implement group work to not only help students better learn Zumba, but to learn life-long skills.

“I’ve always been that person who doesn’t like to work in groups,” Novotny said. “But, whether you like it or not, you have to suck it up and get used to it because no matter what field you go into, at some point you are going to have to work with other people.”

Novotny said students need to learn how to not take things personally in group work.

“I think one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in group work is accepting that even if you think your ideas are great, your group members may not,” Novotny said. “You have to learn to not take it personal.”

Kercher and Walker both said participating in group work is inevitable.

“Have an opinion and speak up,” Kercher said. “It’s almost harder to work with someone who won’t say anything at all than someone who says too much.”

Chung said students working in a group must be proactive in their work.

“If you say you are going to do something, do it,” Chung said. “Something this simple will lead you down the path to working well with others and becoming a great group member. And I believe that is a great characteristic to have.”

Contact Bethany Johnson at [email protected].