Why Group Projects (Usually) Don’t Work

I enjoy an academic challenge. If I hate an assignment, it’s usually not because it’s too hard, but because it’s boring or feels meaningless.

The one type of assignment I just can’t bring myself to like, however, are group projects.

If you’ve never had to survive a group project, I envy you. The name is pretty self-explanatory: it’s an assignment that involves collaborating with other students in order to achieve a (usually shared) grade.

On paper, it’s a great idea. After all, knowing how to collaborate with others is a good skill to have – whether or not it’s as important as people say is something I still debate, but that’s besides the point. Knowing how to work with others and bring people with different skill sets together can allow for more productivity in a project. At least, that’s how it should be.

The problem that I’ve encountered is that in my experience, group projects have been more frustrating than educational. I always come away from a group assignment feeling like the final result would have been better if I had done it myself. Part of this is certainly a character flaw of mine, but I think it goes beyond that.

On the other hand, I’ve had many experiences with collaborative projects that have gone very well. I can think back to some group assignments in college that I enjoyed and learned from, as well as from activities outside of an academic setting, like video games and writing. Based on that, I don’t think the problem is so much with group assignments themselves – as I said, they do have their benefits – but rather with how they’re presented.

So, what makes a group project enjoyable and beneficial? (Or, if not enjoyable, at least not terribly frustrating.)

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