Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Professors are responsible for improving the culture around group projects

Professors should encourage project contribution and hold students accountable when they don’t contribute to group work
Juliette Sandleitner

Group work is an inevitable part of the college experience––one that most people dread as it often requires coordinating with classmates you’ve never spoken to before. While groans and sighs will echo through the lecture hall, the professor might rant about how group work is important for professional development and a part of your everyday work in future careers. Instead of just accepting group projects as a necessary evil, why don’t we make it better?

One of the biggest issues in group work is when certain group members don’t contribute or fulfill their responsibilities. A student’s first instinct might be to go to the professor to complain about their peers, but many professors deter students from doing this and instead encourage them to find a solution as a group. However, when a group member has little ambition to contribute, there’s very little other group members can do to prompt engagement, often resulting in one group member or a small group completing all the work.

Group work sets the tone for how classmates will behave in the professional world––if they can get away with not participating during school projects, how will they be prepared for group work in their future careers? As college years are an important time to cultivate these groups skills, professors are responsible for enforcing group work participation or providing a better atmosphere for group work to flourish.

Not every complication in achieving a cohesive group project dynamic is the result of a “slacker” but might be a part of a larger issue that can be solved before the group project begins. A LinkedIn article cites that some group work can fail because of issues like poor time management or varying learning styles. Issues like these can be solved by providing students with timetables or forms that help ensure that group members can find common availability and establish standards for communication.

If the group has members that fail to contribute, there are ways to boost motivation or productivity by using modes of extrinsic motivation. Last semester, I took a class that contained a lot of group work, although the professor was prepared with how to prevent potential group issues. The professor quickly introduced surveys that students would fill out to rate their group member’s performance. The rating each member received would translate to the grade they got on the project––promoting many to actively participate.

As a more positive motivation for group project participation, the professor also promised awards at the end of the semester. Groups that had the best project overall for an assignment would receive a certificate and a small prize. Overall, the motivation created by the professor created a larger goal of collaboration that wasn’t just about getting a decent grade.

A recent study suggests that women tend to feel more taken advantage of in group projects, as they tend to be assigned more housekeeping portions of assignments that are characterized as less important. By creating imbalanced tasks and crediting in group projects, hostile environments against women in work forces grow. In male dominated fields especially, group project intervention only becomes more important.

The professors’ “figure it out” mentality must go, and they should instead shift to holding students accountable for their contributions in group work and encouraging students to participate with positive motivators. Professors have more power over their students’ futures than they think, setting the tone for the loopholes one might be able to take on their road to success. Group work should no longer be a problem in students’ lives and should instead be transformed into a fun and collaborative experience motivated by more than just a grade.

Lily Fitzgerald can be reached at [email protected]

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