The urge to grab the edge of the table and push it onto its side rises within me. I can’t do it though; there are more important things. I ask my project partners why they haven’t done their part of the project yet. Small excuses and flimsy promises are flung my way.
I take a slow breath then mutter “It’s okay, just get it done.” I feel so frustrated with both the project and my group that I can barely function. I grab my books and head to the library to work on what should have been done last week.
Pretty familiar scene, huh? I hate it when we get assigned group projects for just that reason. I get a group of three or four other people, one of whom will actually work on the project, and the others lounge about like they’re aristocrats.
In the end, the project gets done, but not before my mind and body are wrecked to the point of insanity. So, what in the world are we students to do?
First, I say whenever we get a group project, we should do is grab a sheet of paper and make a sort of contract with the other members. Write it up to say that if pieces of the projects are consistently not getting done, whoever was responsible for those pieces gets no credit. For more security, even approach your professor with this contract and have them sign it as well. That way when people start to whine about not getting a fair grade you can tell them to shut it because all of you agreed to the contract in the beginning.
How about we all just work on our own projects? I’d love to get an assignment where I do something like make an experiment or create a marketing campaign for which I have to do most, if not all, of the work by myself. It would sharpen our skills and give us a way to prove we know what we’re talking about, individually, not as a group.
I can hear the cries of professors everywhere, “What about grading them?” and “What about the real world experience of working with people you don’t like or those who are lazy?” Honestly, if I got a partner who is like this in the real world, I’d throw them under the bus immediately. I don’t need someone holding me back when I’m trying to do the best job I can. Here’s another idea though, why not make it a class project? Instead of breaking us into groups, we could all collaborate on the project and be graded on how much we contributed. It might be a bit of work to keep track of everyone, but unless the class has more than 20 people, we wouldn’t be outside the bounds of the ‘real world’ scenario.
In this scenario, we would take care to make notes about what we’ve done or even email the specific parts to the professor so they know how we’ve contributed to the project.
This also allows us to have much larger and more impactful class projects. Instead of having three or four small presentations, we could have one large one that has a wider range as well as a better-polished product.
I don’t know though, maybe I’m living in a fantasy world where group projects don’t suck. The best advice I can offer until we have mega projects or individual ones is to make everyone in the group accountable, including yourself. Meet with your group as often as you can to work out the small details and kinks that will inevitably arise.
Above all, keep a cool head. Projects can be frustrating, especially when you have to rely on others for part of it. Just try not to flip any tables, and you should be all right.