Our view: Groaning about group work

Group work for class assignments doesn’t help anyone.

The slackers reading this editorial are protesting that generalization of group work. “We always benefit from the opportunity to be carried along by harder-working students,” they say.

Obviously they’re wrong. When professors assign a group project, there’s a leader who takes charge and does almost all of the work, a few others offer as much help as the leader is willing to concede and the runts are dragged along and gain nothing. That’s pretty much how it always goes down.

Group work is a horrible idea. The best argument in its defense is the notion that working with others is a necessary part of the “real world.”

Apparently, our careers will involve doing all the work for incompetent people who learned how to slack off in elementary school, high school and, unfortunately, in college, too. All the time, their teachers assured them this was how it would be in the “real world” – someone will always carry you.

When we graduate and go into the workforce, we’ll need to compromise with colleagues, brainstorm with them and maybe even work in a team to solve a problem. But those are going to be like-minded people who have a common ambition, not random strangers who happened to be in your Art of Theater class.

And, in the real world, those slackers typically have nothing to gain: Their lackluster performances can jeopardize future employment. After all, co-workers will most likely work in the same building preparing a project or report – not at the library, Starbucks or an apartment, away from the professor’s eyes. It would be much easier for bosses to spot the weak links in a business environment.

That’s why we hate the idea of a “one grade fits all” standard for evaluating group projects. It rewards the poor performers and puts extra pressure on the good students to step up their contribution to get that coveted “A.” Meanwhile, professors might never know the difference.

Or in an even worse scenario, one student messes up a piece of the puzzle, letting the other group members’ grades go down the drain with his or hers. How is that fair? Students can only do so much to persuade other group members to put forth effort. At the end of the day, it’s up to each student to either do the work or ignore it entirely. It’s that simple.

Professors, this is our plea to you: Think long and hard before assigning group work. We realize it makes grading easier sometimes, but it also makes your students’ lives miserable.

If you must do the unthinkable and assign a group project, at least be reasonable. Give class time for the project, so you can monitor students’ participation. Allow students to evaluate other members’ contributions at the end.

And don’t make the due date immediately after a major holiday. No one wants to spend his or her Thanksgiving or Easter meal worrying whether Sally and Bill will show up in class Monday with their parts of the project.

But most of all, please don’t assign a group grade. It’s just not fair.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.