Students, faculty share group project survival tips

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It’s all fun and games in class until a professor assigns a group project.

Some students enjoy working in a group setting, but when it comes down to it, it’s about getting the work done and getting the grade. When the time comes for group class assignments, there can be pros and cons, ups and downs and the worry that someone might not do any of the work — or all of it.

The benefits

Sometimes the pressure of getting an important assignment done by yourself can get stressful. Beau Elliott, a junior communication major from St. George, said he doesn’t quite feel the same amount of stress with a group as he might feel alone.

“When I hear that a project is going to be a group project, I get a little more excited about it than if it was just me,” Elliott said. “I think the second [students get] assigned something and they know they have to do it themselves, it’s a much more stressful thing to face. Even if the group project’s the same amount of work, it sounds prettier — it’s easier to take in.”

When the work is divvied out among the masses, students have to work together. Sometimes there are people who take charge, and sometimes everyone is equal. The learning from each other on how to communicate can prepare students for post-university life, Elliott said.

“It’s a lesson in its own of working with people, which is what everyone is going to be doing for the rest of their lives anyway,” Elliott said. “By providing little experiences like that throughout college, I think it’s a really healthy way to learn about that sort of thing rather than just jump into the working world.”

Sandy Wilson, a dental hygiene clinic coordinator and instructor, said even though each student will take a role in completing the assignment, the key is to work together.

“You have to allow the other students to either succeed or fail within your group,” Wilson said.

The downsides

Sometimes there are students who either want full control or they just don’t think they can count on the rest of the group to meet their own standard, said Wilson.

“One of the biggest things that might get in the way with a student would be doing the whole project themselves,” Wilson said. “They’re not counting on the other students to do the work. They want to make sure it gets done so they will kind of just take over the project.”

Wilson said she makes sure each member of a group uses different colored fonts on group papers to ensure each person gets the credit he or she deserve.

James Dettle, a senior computer science major from Dugway, said he hasn’t done a lot of group projects in which everyone does an equal amount of work.

“Some people are capable of more, [and] some people aren’t as much,” Dettle said. “You have to find something that motivates them.”

How to make it work

Dettle said he thinks success in a group can be based on how well everyone in the group knows each other.

“Working with friends is a lot easier because you know each other and you’re friendly with each other,” Dettle said.

Whether friends or strangers, Wilson said communication is the most important thing so that group members can plan and match up schedules.

The group work is the back bone, but the basis on which the assignment was formed can be a factor in how well groups work with each other, Elliott said.

“You can gear a project around being group-oriented, or you can just make a project and tell people to work on it together,” he said.

Wilson said the instructor assigning the project does have an impact on how the group may do on it.

“You have to be careful on the types of assignments you want to give to students,” Wilson said. “[The project is] just not a filler assignment or an assignment that doesn’t mean anything. You want to have good objectives … so that the objectives can be met.”