Students everywhere are familiar with the collective groan that invariably accompanies the phrase “group project.” Those assignments are a stressful rite of passage for students that force group members to band together and attempt to allocate work equally – or perhaps not so equally.
In practice, the best group projects are usually those completed by that one exploited student in a flurry of frustration. In those rare groups where each person actually contributes their fair share, presentations are still usually mediocre and choppy, styles conflict, miscommunications abound and everybody is far too stressed to communicate cohesively.
However, group projects serve a valuable function. They force us to learn how to work alone and teach us independence — the opposite of what you might initially think.
For instance, there are situations that teach students how to deal with the horrors of group projects. Letting Steve from econ 101 take on three whole slides by himself and having him quit on the project the day before it’s due teaches students an equally helpful life skill: we learn to abandon blind trust in the workplace and to instead take the initiative to complete tasks ourselves.
It would be absurd to suggest that a group of teachers in a conference room somewhere conspired against their students and planned that to be ultimate learning goal for group projects from the beginning, but it is certainly the outcome.
Still, group projects are undoubtedly abhorred by everyone involved. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, and your group has a brilliant pushover or a control freak who will commandeer the project, no student enjoys the endeavor and professors certainly cringe during the resulting presentations.
For students who learn to compromise and work together, this is a lifelong skill. Whether it be a presentation with a coworker or compromising on wedding invitations, these are valuable tools.
Alternatively, they learn that nobody wants to work with Steve from econ.
Annie Cohen is a College freshman from New Orleans, La.