SLIS: The School of Group Projects
posted March 6, 2015 7:07 AM
So far, every class I've taken at SLIS has had a major group project component. The people, topics, work style and product in my group projects have varied widely -- from the fabulous, all-on-the-same-page group I'm part of in 404, to a frustrating experience in 401 with a classmate who missed every meeting and turned in subpar work. Working on one group project this week, I realized that my partner and I had completely different comfort levels with when to turn in our assignment (I trend early, she's fine with right at the deadline), which made me think about the similarities (or lack thereof) between group projects and real life.
Why a Group Project is Not Like Real Life
- There is no boss. In real life, someone is in charge. Group projects run the risk of floating along until someone takes charge. Or, someone tries to take charge and the rest of the group doesn't like it.
- You cannot get fired, but you're also not getting paid. In real life, if you mess up, your job is at risk. On the flip side, if you do a good job, you might be recognized for a promotion. There are no real consequences to doing a lousy job in a group project, and also no benefits to putting in extra work. (Of course, your grade can be both a benefit and a consequence, I suppose. Still, you won't be getting a bonus or a pink slip based on your group project work.)
- You don't necessarily know the personalities or capabilities of your partner(s). How was I supposed to know that one of my group members last semester was chronically late and ultimately wouldn't turn anything in? Had we known that ahead of time, we would have started a lot more meetings without her, and assigned her a much smaller piece of the ultimate project. In real life, you're much more likely to know the habits of your colleagues.
Why a Group Project is Like Real Life
- Real life requires interaction with other people. It's crucial to know how to work -- and work well! -- with a variety of personalities. Group projects are a great way to learn that skill. Yes, some people will drive you crazy, but you still have to work with them.
- Different people have different strengths. Successful group projects, just like successful workplaces, build on individual strengths. Learning how to capitalize on group members' strengths (and work around weaknesses) is important, and it's great to learn that skill in a safe environment.
- Work often requires give and take. During the first few weeks of a recently finished group project, my kids had six snow days AND a week off for February vacation. Suffice to say, it was hard for me to get much schoolwork done during that time. My partner really carried the water for a few weeks, and when she had a major work and personal crisis toward the end of our project, I was able to pick up the slack. Overall, we probably did the same amount of work, just at different times, and we had support when we each needed it. I hope we would have supported each other the same way in the workplace.
What do you think of group work? Love it and learn from it? Hate it and put up with it? While there are times I'd certainly appreciate doing schoolwork solo, I understand why group work is such a major component of the SLIS curriculum.