Group projects should limit their scope and divide their work

Disciplined students are forced to pick up the slack of less-motivated peers when a group grade is on the line.

Almost nobody likes group projects; they’re often huge assignments that take a large amount of work. However, they are a necessary part of a high school education; according to the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement report, positive experiences with group projects contribute to overall college success. Despite these benefits, there are ways to improve the quality of group projects.

Group experience is important for high school and college education because of its value for employers. In the workforce, workers collaborate at jobs; however, BSM is not the real world.  People in the workforce have a strong motivation for ensuring group success: do the work or risk losing employment. In high school, not everyone has the same motivation to finish an assignment. This can lead to negative group experiences. According to Carnegie Mellon University, if free-riding in groups is not addressed, it erodes the motivation of hard-working students.

If some students aren’t contributing to a project, students who actually do the work shouldn’t suffer. Individual work done as a part of a group project should, for the most part, receive individual grades. And while I acknowledge that it’s not always possible for a group project to be “split up,” students should be assured that their work will be justly graded. If one person is forced to do a group assignment alone, they shouldn’t get a bad grade because they were overworked. Furthermore, if a student is overworked, it can drastically affect their schedule, meaning they may not have the time needed to produce quality work in other classes.

Additionally, collaboration isn’t always possible. If a project requires in-person work, there must be opportunities for students to finish the project in class. BSM is not a neighborhood school, so it’s not always feasible for students to drive someplace to meet in person. Students may live far away or have vastly different schedules.

If certain students aren’t contributing to a project, students who actually do the work shouldn’t suffer.

— Gus Beringer

Another step teachers can take to improve group work is to keep groups small. According to Carnegie Mellon, smaller groups have lower coordination costs, one more person means another schedule, more work, and more disagreement. Smaller groups are easier for students to organize and manage because less coordination is needed. A small group has less chance of conflict than a larger, more opinionated group.

While group projects may be a student’s greatest fear, they are crucial to education. Although group projects will never stop being scary for students, measures can be taken to lessen their frightfulness. By rewarding hard work, providing in-class work time, and keeping groups small, what might be thought of as a super, scary project won’t be that bad.