Group Projects: A Useful Tool or a Roadblock in the way of Success?

Group projects are, in my opinion, an excellent experience for students of all ages and should be not only continued, but encouraged. Working with others helps kids learn how to deal with difficult people who refuse to cooperate or that they don't like. To work with others in a group boosts both social and problem solving skills, both of which are very important skills to have. While working as part of a team, ideas can be bounced off of each of the members to make the resulting project even better than before. Surely, despite inevitable conflicts, group projects are more beneficial to those involved than not.

You can't agree with everybody. It's a fact of life. Even if you try with every fiber in your body to agree with every last thing someone ever says or does, eventually you'll realize that it just isn't going to happen. Yes, it can get frustrating when you are trying to get something done but some genius in your group decides that it's a better use of everyone's time to watch him attempt to balance a pencil on the tip of his nose instead of helping with the assignment. You sigh and continue typing hurriedly on the computer. The project is due at the end of class and you still have to finish the report, make a poster, film a skit, and, God help you, write an essay response to each of five videos your team has been instructed to watch. The task wouldn't usually be so big, but since there were five people assigned to each team, the teacher didn't see a problem with assigning a little extra. Little did she know that, out of the five in your group, only one of them is actually doing what she is supposed to; you. We've all been there, so we all know what it's like: cramming together every last piece of the puzzle, head exploding with anxiety, and the vexed glances you give to the rest of your team whenever you have a second free from trying to save your grade. I know that seems like the only thing you can do in a situation like this without looking like a baby or tattletale, but it really isn't. By working in groups long enough, you would be able to figure out exactly what to do to make the slackers of the team work. Whether it is constantly redirecting their focus, coaxing them into obedience, or simply laying down the law depends solely on how ready you are to be confrontational. Working on teams helps students learn how to deal with people like this not only during projects, but on a daily basis as well, making it a life skill.

So now, let's rewind the clock. You took some action and had a chat with Mr. Pencil Guy over there and got him back on track working on the project. You can breathe easy now, right? Wrong. Two of the members on your team, the two who were supposed to be filming the skit, are in a heated argument about who should be who in the skit, which skit they should do, who had a more convincing accent, etc. You clench your fists and bite your lip. Conflict within the group has just shown its ugly face, creating another roadblock in the way of successfully completing this assignment. Lovely, isn't it? Luckily, if you have worked with people before, you are more likely to know how to peacefully solve this dilemma before it turns into something you can't handle, like an incomplete project or time in the office. Kids who work with groups have better problem solving skills and could handle this situation better than those who have worked solo for the majority of their lives. Someone experienced and educated in the field of solving disagreements could decide to placate the team members in many ways such as holding a vote, doing a take with each of them as the lead part and seeing which one turns out better, or simply reassigning the jobs of the group. Problem solving is a lifelong skill as well, and, in my opinion, the sooner you learn it and the more practice you have at it, the better off you'll be in the real world. Problems aren't going to go away after you graduate high school. In reality, they're only going to become more frequent.

You take a deep breath and sit back down in your chair. Thank goodness that you were able to end that argument before it got too out of hand. You fix your eyes back on the screen where you were writing up the report and they stay there, right smack dab in the middle of the page. Your fingers are placed on the keyboard just itching to type up the rest of this article. Problem is, you don't know what to write. Your brain feels numb and your fingers feel too heavy to lift. In other words, you are fresh out of ideas, buddy. If you were on your own, you'd be done for. That was only if it was an independent project, though. This is a group project. You have a whole team of other people that could offer you ideas of what to write! A group brainstorm is exactly what you need, so you have the rest of your team sit down and start bouncing ideas off each other. Soon enough, you have the entire report done, edited (you never thought to check for grammar mistakes. Thank you, Pencil Guy!), printed out, and ready to turn in with the rest of the assignment when it's done. You read it over again and realize that it was three times as good as you had originally hoped it would be. Whoever would have thought to use direct quotes from outside sources in a paper like this one? It never would've crossed your mind to use a distinct voice in your writing! With team members to share ideas with, the project turned out better than it would have if you were working alone. Higher quality resulting projects are another positive outcome of working in a group because with only one head, there is only one train of thought. If there were multiple heads, though, you'd have an entire Metro station of ideas going back and forth, creating one gigantic thought that was, in this case, five times better than the single train. Working in a group is definitely more worthwhile and rewarding than working alone. This is true in almost all scenarios you can come up with.

The minute hand on the clock clicks into place and the bell rings, signaling the end of class. A wave of groans washes over the classroom as multiple groups turn in what they have of their projects or first takes and drafts that were never looked twice at. A satisfied grin spreads across your face as you hand in your flawlessly completed project. You notice a solo worker in the corner scrambling around her desk, picking up flying pieces of paper and scribbling down one last word on her essay. You breathe a sigh of relief. Working in a group helped you get your project done in time without the stress of working solo, though you really could've gone without the arguments and mishaps that went along with working as a team. Over all, though, you realize that you left this group with a ton of new experiences and skills, some that you could use every day. Working on a team helped you learn how to deal with those kinds of people. Solving disputes within the group boosted your problem solving skills. Sitting down with your partners also helped start your brain flowing with a boatload of new ideas. So, even though you did have your issues, can you really say that group projects do more harm than good? If you said yes, look at that poor girl skittering around and piecing the rest of her project together at the last minute. Now can you honestly say that? Yeah, didn't think so.