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The frustrations of group projects

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College is supposedly all about independence. And yet, for some reason, some professors feel the need to create assignments for which they insist, or at least strongly encourage, that we work with other people. Yes, I know that in the real world, and in most jobs, you must work with other people, at least to some extent. No one can coast through life entirely on their own. I understand that there are benefits to assigning group work. But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. While I have definitely had some positive experiences in the past, as a general rule, I hate group assignments — and here’s why.

For starters, I swear that sometimes on the first day of a class it can feel like everyone has a friend to talk to except for me. I look around, scouring my immediate neighbors for an especially friendly-looking face. Then it’s only a matter of seconds until I remember that after the tragically awkward conversation that ensued when I dared to put myself out there by talking to a random person sitting next to me in my first ever class at Stanford, I don’t typically feel inclined to make small talk with the people in my vicinity. So if I don’t have at least an acquaintance to sit next to within the first week, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find one down the road, especially considering I don’t even necessarily sit in the same place every time. So when I look on the syllabus and slowly realize that I will have to find partners to join me, shudders run down my spine.

Aside from that, there are problems to be found even once the group work itself begins. The first can be summed up in two words: scheduling conflicts. Between classes, extracurriculars, jobs and those (highly likely to be flaked on) plans to “grab a meal sometime!” the odds are that a lot of the group members’ planners hardly even have any white space left in them. And the odds that the limited free time that each individual has actually coincides with a time that works for every other person are slim.

Even further than that, I like to be able to work at my own pace. In a group, the members have to move together, unless a select few are going to end up doing the bulk of the work by themselves. I mean, if I want to procrastinate, let me procrastinate. I can’t procrastinate when my actions (or lack thereof, for that matter) are going to affect people other than just myself. On the other end of the spectrum, if I want to get something done as far in advance of the deadline as possible, and my group wants to take it nice and slow, then I don’t have many options but to suck it up and do whatever everyone else decides to do.

And lastly, just in general, there’s something about doing assignments by myself that makes me feel like I’m being forced to understand them more, especially in one of those aforementioned classes where I hardly have anyone to engage in banter with, let alone to ask questions to. Again, this is not all to say that I haven’t had positive group project experiences. I’m just saying, if I never had another group assignment for the rest of my time here, it would be no loss to me.

 

Contact Kassidy Kelley at kckelley ‘at’ stanford.edu.