Collaboration After College

So you walk into class and sit in your unofficial, yet officially assigned seat for the whole semester and get all comfortable because you know it’s going to be a long class. You make small talk with the person sitting next to you because odds are if you’re lucky, that’s the only person you’ll have to talk to in that room for the next sixteen weeks (and let’s be honest that’s only if you skip class for a Netflix binge and need to email someone for notes later).

Your professor walks in and announces that the semester long group project will be assigned that day and you instantly feel your stomach drop. A whole slew of comments run rampantly through your brain.

Group? As in other people? Is it too late to drop this class?  Can I work alone?  Quick scan! Who looks like they know what’s going on in here? Will there be peer reviews? But seriously, do I need this class to graduate? 

Alright, alright, you finally think to yourself. It’s gonna be okay, you’ve gotten through this before and plus the kid sitting next to you seems pretty nice. Maybe you can work together?

Then you hear those dreaded words: “I will be assigning your groups.”

The world seems to end all together and your only option at this point is to a) assume the fetal position or b) drop out of school.

Okay, so maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration?

Maybe the world doesn’t exactly end, but for most people hatred for group projects stems all the way back to elementary school, especially when group members are assigned randomly or chosen for us. But is it really as awful as we make it out to be?

I have personally been a part of some really great groups and some really bad groups, but in each situation I have walked away knowing so much more about collaboration, open-mindedness, and compromise. I once thought that if I could just make it through college I would be free from all group project obligations, but according to Christopher Cattie and Kris Van Riper, “Sixty percent of respondents said their day-to-day work requires regular coordination with 10 or more people, and two-thirds reported regular coordination with employees from different work units and supervisory levels” (Cattie and Van Riper 2012).

Collaboration does not stop after college.

In the real world, we do not always get to pick who we work with or what we research, much like the group projects we experience all throughout our formal education. I like to think of them as mini trial runs preparing us for the professional world where deadlines really matter and the livelihood of your team depends on you. With so many negatives flooding our brain, we fail to recognize that working in groups actually allows for great networking opportunities and the sharing of new knowledge, while also developing great communication skills. Who would have thought that group projects actually aim to help you learn from others rather than just crush your dreams (and your GPA)?

According to Scott A. Myers, “For many college students, small group work is an inevitable component of their coursework. Used extensively across academic disciplines, small group work is believed, at least from the perspective of course instructors, to provide multiple benefits to students. These benefits include:

  • developing an extensive understanding and retention of small group concepts and course content,
  • becoming more proficient in social and interpersonal communication skills, and
  • becoming adequately prepared for future vocational and career endeavors” (Myers 2009).

Employers everywhere are looking to hire people who possess the capability of working well with others. At the end of the day nobody wants to be the person stuck carrying the team and doing all of the work because the whole advantage of having more hands is to make lighter work for everyone. The best part about group projects is that you get to pool together all of the knowledge, ideas, and skills of each member in order to tackle problems much greater than just one person could ever handle (“What are the benefits of group work?” n.d.). Unfortunately, we rarely recognize all of the advantages that come with working in groups because so often we have had negative past experiences that frame our thinking.

I’ll let you in on a secret, though: Group projects are all about give and take.

When all of the work is divided up evenly and there is open communication amongst all of the members, group projects can be a really great learning opportunity. It’s important that everyone is held accountable for their work because your grade (and in the near future your job) depend on the collaborative efforts of each and every group member. By changing our thinking to see all of the positives rather than the negatives that come from group projects, we can begin to prepare for the inevitable collaboration that awaits us in the future.

References:

Cattie, C., &Van Riper, K. (2012, December 07). Collaboration’s Role in the New Work Environment. Retrieved from https://fcw.com/articles/2012/12/07/collaboration-in-agency-environments.aspx

Myers, S. A., Bogdan, L. M., Eidsness, M. A., Johnson, A. N., Schoo, M. E., Smith, N. A., . . . Zackery, B. A. (2009). TAKING A TRAIT APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING COLLEGE STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF GROUP WORK. College Student Journal, 43(3), 822-831. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/236525167?accountid=39473

What are the benefits of group work? (n.d.). In Carnegie Mellon. Retrieved from https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/benefits.html

Featured Image Credit: Bethany Garcia

 

 

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