Surviving Group Projects (and why you have to)

Group projects in middle and high school have been a reality for students for generations. They’re one of the most dreaded assignments students will get. Most will notice they are not assigned to work with their friends and that there is always that one person in the group who simply doesn’t participate. More often than not a small portion of the group ends up doing the vast majority of the work and, sometimes, one person ends up doing all the work themselves. C students get As without doing anything, and A students get a C despite their very best efforts. Group projects can seem terribly unfair, and in some cases they are, but they do serve a higher purpose: to learn how to collaborate. There are several ways students can survive and even thrive their group projects and there are many reasons why they have to.


1 – Mimicking the Workplace

In many ways, group projects mimic life in a work environment. Although some people end up working for themselves, the majority of people will have to collaborate at some point during their career. Group projects, even at a young age, help students understand what it will be like to work in a corporate environment. As most adults will agree, there is always that one person who shows up late or doesn’t pull their weight. It’s easy to think that these colleagues won’t be in the workplace much longer, but that often isn’t true. When students learn to cope with a student colleague who doesn’t participate they are also learning how to work with future work colleagues (READ: “Tips from an Irvine AP Tutor: What to do if AP Exams Were a Bust”).

2 – Preparing for College

College group projects will be much harder and more complicated than middle and high school projects in some respects. However, in many ways they are similar. Students need to learn to work as a team and identify strengths and weaknesses. If one member of the group is an excellent writer perhaps they should complete the draft/editing. If another member is an excellent researcher but terribly unorganized, they can conduct the initial research and have a third member keep everybody on task. When students work in groups they learn how to determine what they are good at and what they’re not. This helps not only improve their own skills but helps their peers improve upon each other.

3 – Healthy Socialization

Many students, teachers, and parents feel there simply isn’t enough appropriate socialization in school these days. There are more instructional minutes and less time to learn how to be social. Group projects, believe it or not, help students learn how to develop healthy socialization skills. It’s easy enough for students to get along with their friends, but they should also know how to get along with students who are a little bit different from them. In addition to learning tolerance and polite behavior, students can make new friends when they are required to work in a group. Students who trudge through the project and complain about their partners are demonstrating they, themselves, still need to work on social skills. This is a great thing to learn in middle or high school rather than finding out as an adult that they don’t know how to collaborate with various types of people. Students who know how to socialize appropriately will have a much easier time in college and in life (READ: “5 Tips to Encourage Your Child to Read”).

4 – Surviving When Everything Goes Wrong

Sometimes, despite very best efforts, the group project goes terribly wrong. In some instances, one or two members of the group simply don’t show up for study sessions or refuse to work at all. In this case a couple, or even one solo student, will be left to complete the entire project; a job meant for several. In this case, students probably won’t learn much about life other than that group projects can be annoying. However, they can use some tips to survive it and still get a decent grade.

– Speak with a teacher or tutor about how to organize different parts of the project.

– Break the project up into pieces and find a part that the resistant members of the group can do.

– Get together with the willing members of the group and determine different skills amongst the group.

– Take a deep breath and remember group projects don’t come along that often.

– If the reality comes down to one student completing the entire project, they should schedule in enough time to finish so that this one assignment doesn’t ruin their GPA.

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