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Group projects do have a point at Colorado State

We’ve all had to do them. Whether we like them or not, group projects are inescapable.

“I’m not a huge fan,” said Hayley Thompson, a junior communications and computer information major. “It’s always really stressful to get everybody working together on the same page.”

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Working with a group to get the grade is not easy and Thompson’s not alone in her distaste for group projects. Even professors said they found them challenging when they were in college.

“I hated them,” said history professor Robert Jordan. “Being the academic super nerd that I am, it was always tough because there were always those group members that I felt were not pulling their weight.”

The fear that a member of the group will bring everybody down is common and professors know it. Issues of one person not measuring up or conflict arising between members is to be expected, according to communications professor Elizabeth Sink.

“We’re forcing them to talk to one another, to deal with conflict, and to face the fact that somebody is going to be lazy or that someone’s going to try to take over,” she said. “These are the real life situations that we try to get away from. They’re unpleasant, but we need experience dealing with them.”

Sink is required by her department to give out group work. In her Communication and Pop Culture class (SPCM 100), students work together to analyze a text, usually a film or TV show, and receive a group grade.

Thompson was in an SPCM 100 class and did not appreciate the group grading.

“Every person in the group got the same exact grade and that was probably the most irritating situation I’ve ever been in,” she said. “One person definitely brought the grade down and I would have been able to do better work by myself.”

This is why Sink likes to do a practice project first so that students will have a better idea of what’s expected. Therefore, nobody will be the weak link that brings the group down. To her knowledge, she is the only professor in the department to do this.

After being frustrated with group grades when he was in college, Jordan decided to use individual grading when he created a completely unique Twitter project in one of his classes.

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“I don’t give them a group grade based on everybody’s contributions because of the experience that I had with other people pulling my grade down,” he said.

Jordan’s students work together on Google Drive. This system allows Jordan to track every addition, edit or deletion on the document and who made it. That way students don’t have to worry about someone on the team not contributing their share because Jordan will know about it.

“I’m able to track them individually and grade them on the quality of their work and how they contributed to the group,” he said.

Professors say they do not assign group projects to cause frustration. Group projects are usually created with the intention of promoting collaboration and are said to better prepare students for work they will need to do in the workplace.

“It’s a strategic decision,” Sink said. “We feel that they set our students up for their future professional experiences.”

Thompson says that she has heard this explanation before and based on her experience, she does not see the validity in it.

“I know that in the real work world we’ll be asked to work in a group setting, but your job is your job, so I don’t really see the advantage in a lot of heavy group projects and assignments,” she said.

Collegian City Beat Reporter McKenna Ferguson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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