When it comes to group assignments, the majority of students will have one of two opinions; that it’s a brutally unfair theft of work, or that it is the best idea in the world because now they can kick back and watch TV while the class valedictorian earns them an A+. The reality is that group assignments are never cut and dry and while they are fraught with glaringly obvious flaws, such as the risk of unequal participation and conflict, they teach valuable life skills that go beyond just the classroom.
While it does teach a whole array of skills such as commitment, conflict resolution and reliability, the main benefit of group work is obvious – teamwork. Teamwork is so vital to the proper functioning of society that it has become a cliché of sorts and hence, its significance is often overlooked. In almost every professional sense, from medical teams to police squads, employers seek those who can successfully work together to achieve common goals rather than going it alone in search of personal glory. Unfortunately, the cheesy childhood messages and Disney propaganda of ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ only get children so far, they need to learn firsthand, they need to be forced to manage other group members and cooperate in order to achieve shared success. The goal of a group assignment isn’t merely to get a PowerPoint with a new design and varied writing style on each slide, it is to impart necessary skills to ensure students are employable and capable of contributing to society as a whole.
On the contrary, your child’s complaints that group assignments are just “the absolute worst” are not completely unfounded. Academically inclined and hardworking students may feel their credit is being unduly distributed or may find their own marks plummeting due to their peers slacking off, which is inarguably unjust and mustn’t be trivialised as ‘just a part of life’. Regardless of whether this unequal participation is founded in well-meaning academic blunders or something more sinister, it can be frustrating to see others benefit from your hard work. As such, students cannot be faulted for complaining about their forced reliance upon others.
There is no consistent answer to whether or not group work is important as each new context brings with it different circumstances. Generally, to the more academically focussed students, group work is a never-ending nightmare, however to many others, whether it be those who wish to exploit the opportunity or those who recognise and appreciate the underlying lessons, team assignments are necessary and valuable opportunities for self-growth.