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Opinion

Group projects hinder learning

December 1, 2006

It finally dawned on me as to what it was I liked so much about high school -- the lack of group projects. At my high school, group projects were rarely ever utilized because they were perceived as an abstract form of cheating. One or two group members would do all of the work while the others were simply along for the ride ... and the grade.

It seems as though college is all about group projects, and those who were just along for the ride back then have tracked me down in River Falls. They are the ones who sit in the back of the classroom doing the New York Times crossword, sending text messages, listening to their iPods or sleeping. Those students could give a shit less about paying attention and are barely pulling a C, yet they always seem to bring that grade up once a group project presents itself.

Coincidence? I think not.

The reasoning is simple. At least two people in each group actually give a damn about their grades, so whether or not everyone participates, someone always gets by with doing little to no work. This leaves the rest of the members to pick up that slack.

Sure, professors think they have group participation nipped in the bud with their useless evaluation forms, which they claim are anonymous, but they are foolish if they base our grades off that information.

I’m pretty sure every student gives themselves perfect scores on self-evaluations, regardless of the work they actually did. And, let’s face it, not everyone is willing to truthfully fill them out for their classmates.

We are peers who must work together numerous times during the semester, and possibly in future courses. We’re not going to sabotage someone else’s grade so they can just return the favor on one of the next group collaborations. It is because of this that we should not be given the right to determine the grades of our classmates.

Besides, they’re not stupid. If one of your two or three group mates gets a shitty grade, they’re going to know who to point the finger at. Anonymity, my ass.

Another issue that concerns me is the number of group projects that are required for some classes. I don’t know if it’s laziness on the part of the professors (they get to fill in at least three lines in their grade book instead of just one), but some of the projects assigned don’t even justify involving more than one person. I could easily do some of the collaborative assignments on my own and not have to worry about the work of others negatively impacting my grade.

This semester, five out of my six classes all require at least two group collaborations. And I thought doing one group project was bad enough. The added pressure of those group projects coinciding with one another is simply overwhelming.

I understand that there are reasons behind these projects — making classes more interesting via direct interaction with classmates, building teamwork skills, blah, blah, blah — but all they really do is make life more stressful.

Being that UWRF is known for the large number of commuters and is also deemed a “suitcase campus,” finding time to actually contribute group time to these projects can prove to be quite difficult.

These days, college students are working one, if not two or three, jobs to pay rent, in addition to carrying full class loads. Trying to work around all of these extracurricular activities of each group member can be damn near impossible. It’s difficult to coordinate schedules when one member has basketball practice while another is a commuter student whose only concern is beating rush hour traffic on the way home.

I am fully aware that this IS college and this type of work should not necessarily be done during class, but to successfully carry out a team effort, students need some guaranteed time to work together.

If professors think it’s such a great idea to require these group assignments, they should be willing to devote more class time to allow groups to formally meet. This does not mean canceling class and setting it aside as a “work day.” Come on, we all know that doesn’t work. All it means is that we can sleep in and not have to worry about busting our asses to get to class to satisfy bogus attendance policies.

Jennie Oemig is a student at UW-River Falls.

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