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Claire Hargreaves vents about the problems and perils of group work at university.

I want to talk about group work – possibly the least popular form of studying and assessment at university.

In theory, it is the most wonderful prospect to work with others who share a passion for your common subject, to produce something academically exemplary, from intellectual discussions of which you can be equally proud.

Before coming to university, these discussions and projects are what you imagine university will be like: intellectual, inspired, and profound. However, the reality is that group work is unproductive, and ends up pissing off more people than anything.

There is always that person who takes the lead but who ends up doing all the important elements of the project. Then there is that person who never replies on the purpose-made group chat and just about turns up on the day of the presentation to muddle their way through something that someone else has scripted for them.

Ultimately, it is almost impossible for a group project to be entirely equal. Of course, there will be a natural leader and others who need that extra bit of encouragement. However, it is too common that group work becomes a farce, with one person taking on the major responsibilities and others slacking more than they should.

Moreover, group work fails to account for different learning styles and abilities. Although it is important for students to learn to work professionally and academically with a range of people, it seems unfair that this could lead to a worse mark and ultimately even a worse degree.

The worth of summative group work needs to be seriously challenged, so that some students do not end up being taken advantage, and the laziest amongst us do not end up getting a get-out-of-jail-free card.


Do you like or loathe group work? Let us know.

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