Is group work valuable in university?

Groupwork-website

In high school, middle school and elementary, we can all remember having to do group projects or assignments. When you were young it was in class assignments, then, once you got into high school, you’d have to meet people outside of the class where you were assigned to work together and spend extra time trying to convince your teacher that you all did equal work.

Then came a time when you had a teacher who admitted that they knew not everyone does equal work, so then, for group projects, everyone had their own separate part of the assignment they were responsible for. Some of us probably loved that (well, those who did their work), and some people hated it because they couldn’t get away with going on autopilot in group projects anymore.

But then, once everyone started having different responsibilities and marks for those group projects, sometimes people would work together even less. Person A had their part, Person B had another task, and Person C did all the research, so all they really had to do was make it look nice on a poster or powerpoint.

In university, we still can’t seem to get away from group work. Whether it be in a smaller lecture class or a seminar, group work is still very much alive in post-secondary education. What does it do for the furthering of our education, though?

Once you get into university, most people are well aware of their personalities — they know if they can work well in a group, they know their study habits, they know their tendencies to procrastinate or to just not put so much energy into readings or assignments. So why do we continue to have group assignments in lectures or seminars? Labs I can understand having group work, because chances are if you’re in a lab for say physical education — you need to continue to develop people skills and work with others in a variety of settings. But seminars in a first year social science context credit, or in a second year class where there are people from a wide variety of majors — what is it doing for students?

I’m all for people learning how to work with others, but that’s what group work in middle school and high school is for. Plenty of people, by the time they get to university, are in their ways in terms of their willingness to work with others. By continuing to force students to do group work, what value is it adding to their education?

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