How beneficial is group work actually?


When a teacher announces an upcoming group project or assignment to their class, their classrooms are typically filled with mixed reactions. 

The slackers rejoice because they will be allowed to continue to complete conclusively nothing for the class for the following few days—and will provide minuscule to no aid to their group. The normal students are indifferent; the task will not be challenging, but they are certain that an acceptable amount of the project will require completion by them. And, the perfectionists cringe because they are already aware of what group projects entail: lackluster, sloppy work from their partners, and therefore, excessive work for them in order to clean up the mess. 

I identify as a perfectionist, and the above situation is far too real for me; however, I have been fortunate enough to not encounter such a severe situation recently. As I have commenced taking an increased amount of AP classes, I have discovered that my classes contain a noticeably greater amount of students who desire to do both well and their equal part in group work. So, although my typical school day has increased in difficulty, the group work in each class has become extremely easier. 

If every student were to actively motivate themself and every teacher actively provide information on their expectations, then I believe that I would despise group work much less than I currently do.”

But, I am still skeptical regarding how valuable group work really is. Since the tasks and research within group work is divided among the group members, I constantly feel as if I’m not retaining nearly all of the available information—and truthfully, I’m probably not. More often than not, students are graded individually within their group; therefore, if I desire to receive an A, clearly I would choose to focus solely on my pieces of the group’s puzzle rather than the finished puzzle altogether. 

An article on the website PsychologyToday states that one of the largest challenges for students is to maintain responsibility for the things they control: themselves and their actions. The article includes that obtaining the ability to successfully collaborate in a group is a skill that must be taught and learned. Without knowledge on the subject, students are left vulnerable, dazed, and frustrated. 

Another article posted on the University of Queensland’s website includes a list of issues that commonly occur when working in a group: inability to complete tasks by the assigned deadline, difficulty to begin projects, lack of thoroughly discussed ideas, lack of equal, satisfactory contribution, ineffective communication, conflict between members and personalities, and inability to focus. Evidently, group work obtains the power to inhibit students’ success and academic progress. 

A post on Carnegie Mellon University’s website refutes the argument by including several commonly known phrases such as “two heads are better than one,” “more hands make for lighter work,” and “the more the merrier.” The article fights that the phrases speak to the ability that group work bears to allow students to experience increased productivity, creativity, and motivation compared to working individually. 

The article further includes that group work allows students to reinforce skills that they will use in their careers: breaking complex tasks into parts and steps, planning and managing time, fine-tuning understanding through collaborative discussion, receiving and providing feedback, challenging assumptions and prior knowledge, and developing enhanced communication skills. 

The article on Psychology Today states that meticulous, careful planning on teachers’ part is essential for the success of group work. It states research that supports that group work is most advantageous when teachers offer consistent, immediate, unambiguous, and meaningful feedback. 

I both agree and disagree with that. Frequently, students are docked off points from their final group work grade because their teacher did not convey their expectations completely transparently. But, the negatives of group work are created by unmotivated students who do not complete their share—which teachers don’t have much to do with.  

If every student were to actively motivate themself and every teacher actively provide information on their expectations, then I believe that I would despise group work much less than I currently do.