Drag them out into the street and shoot them...

12/1/05 12:41 AM 0 Comments

Whoever thought up the idea of "group work" should be shot. For anyone who has had a job, ever: when was the last time you had to do something using the "group" model?

Sure, I've been assigned to work on projects with people. Occasionally I've been in meetings where something actually got accomplished. BUT I HAVE NEVER worked on something with someone where we worked through something together. Of course usually the people I work with have at least some idea about how to do at least one part of a project.

After spending almost 8 years in higher education classes, I am appalled at the number of "group" assignments I've had to complete. Almost every class has some "group" assignment at some point. For the few precious few that don't fall for the "group" fad, there are twice as many classes that assign multiple "group" projects. My favorite ones are when the "group" project counts for a very substantial portion of my final grade.

For all of the "group" fanatics out there, including the ones who taught me this without realizing it, I have some late-breaking news on groups:
  1. Let me introduce you to SOCIAL LOAFING - This concept has been at the center of many behavioral studies. Social loafing occurs when a task needs to be completed by a group. When a group member sees that one or more of the members will complete the assignment, they do absolutely nothing to contribute to the project. The really adept ones do just enough to avoid arousing suspicion.
  2. Pairing intelligent people with COMPLETE MORONS does not improve the moron's abilities - When an intelligent person is paired with a moron, the intelligent person does the work and supervises everything the moron does. This long and painful process results in a decreased productivity yield for the intelligent person. Not only do they have to complete their part of the project, but they also have to complete the moron's part of the project while arguing with the moron that the correct answer is correct. I have a suggestion: let's put all of the morons in one group and see what they come up with. I bet it will be one of the most interesting and entertaining presentations anyone has seen in a long time.
  3. Long distance groups, like long distance relationships, usually DO NOT WORK OUT - When you live in the same are code as someone else and you are both putting off something you don't have time for or want to do, it's hard enough to get together. Adding a 2-3 hour distance between partners makes it impossible. These kinds of groups always result in what I like to call "24-hour presentations". 24-hour presentation are presentations that have been started and completed within 24 hours of the presentation's start time. Sure it sounds decent, these people have been thinking about nothing else for the last 24 hours.
  4. The REAL WORLD doesn't use "group work" - There is a decent amount of teamwork, but as an organizational specialist (with a degree to prove it), I have never seen "group work" at any job. They sure as hell don't have "group" paychecks. How I wish they did when I used to work in IT. That would have been a sweet ass paycheck.

So in conclusion, why in the world are educators putting students through countless hours of torture and anxiety to learn something that doesn't exist? I'm not sure, but I bet anyone who has ever taken a class has a theory...

UPDATE: Just so you all know, I have proof that the moron + intelligent person theory is in fact a fallacy. Thanks to this kind of pairing, plus a group member calling in sick, we bombed our presentation tonight. The moron couldn't fill in the PowerPoint gaps and resorted to reading the slides. No concept of presentation skills (i.e., PowerPoint summarizes statements, but does not spell them out) at all. Fabulous way to end the semester in this course. I'm glad I still have one assignment to turn in to prove that the poor presentation was not a result of my involvement. I HATE GROUP WORK!!


“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents