Not what I signed up for

I have never seen a class in the catalog titled group work, yet it still seems to pervade every single class that I sign up for. Whether it’s art or geography I have ended up working in groups. It wouldn’t be a problem if we were not graded as a group, but we are (even if it’s only part of the grade). I want the grade I earn, not the grade some other person I ended up working with earned.

Group work is not a skill that we ever sign up for, yet instructors keep trying to teach it to us. I just can’t fathom why. Group work is a specialized skill that tends to come in handy more than other specialized skills, but it’s still specialized. Not everyone needs it.

As mentioned in last issue’s editorial, in the “real world” people are fired when they fail their work. In college people get an “F” and it hurts everyone else because someone else slacked off.

So let’s make up an example. Student one and student two are working together on a project. The project is graded partly on group work and partly on individual work, which the instructor claims is fair because group work only makes up 20 percent of the grade for the project. Student one works very hard and writes an outstanding paper to bring to class for the presentation. Student two, who has completely forgotten the assignment even exists, goes out to a bar the night before the project and gets smashed. Student one and two give their presentation the next morning. Student two is too hungover to speak during the presentation, so the pair loses all points for having both people talk. Student two gets an “F” for the presentation and student one gets a B after losing those points because his partner had nothing to say besides “Stop yelling!”. Student one get’s a lower grade than the work he put in.

A student’s G.P.A. should be something they earn individually. That’s why colleges use it to see if a student is worth taking into a program.

Why does group work seem to be in every class anyway? I have one main theory (but I expect faculty reader to not be too keen on it). It makes grading take less time and means there are only six projects, not 30. It comes down to a combination of being lazy and to not having enough time set aside for presentations.

It’s a problem, though, and it needs to be dealt with. The easiest way is to simply stop including it in the curriculum. Let’s be honest; one’s skill in geography and one’s skill at working in a group have nothing to do with one another. There is no harm in dropping group work from all subjects when it is not related to the subject. We sign up for English. The goal is to learn to write better, not learn to play nice with others. That’s an important skill to have, but why is it being taught out of place? Oh, that’s right. For time constraint reasons and so the instructors have less things to grade.