Group projects are inevitable; everyone, at one time or another, has been faced with the daunting task of collaborating with other people for class credit. For some, the words “group project” signify hours of extra work agonizing over the portions assigned to them and to other group members. For others, collaborative coursework means working on other courses while dumping responsibility onto group members who will make up for their lack of effort.
While some studies champion the importance of group projects in the development of collaboration and time management skills, many assignments and grading schemes fail to take into account disparities in individual effort. At the post-secondary level students are already dealing with copious amounts of stress as we balance intense course loads with much-needed sleep and social interaction.
What we don’t need is to be worrying about whether someone has time to complete their share of a project worth 45 per cent of your final grade, or whether the group will have time to meet with the conflicting class and work schedules. There’s also the added complication of differing opinions and ideas which often lead to friction between group members.
At an institution where students pay for their education, it is imperative that students are given a fair chance to earn grades that reflect their own abilities. When you have multiple people working on the same project there are minimal ways to truly determine the contribution each student makes, with many relying on honour systems and student feedback.
While it would be ignorant to say that group projects provide no benefits whatsoever, it is important for instructors to consider marking collaborative work in ways that acknowledge each student’s individual contributions. Bottom line: a student’s final grade should never be dependent on the efforts of other people.