Group work does not always bode well for some students. Often, when students are assigned group work, one or two students end up doing most of the work, while the others take a back seat.
The process can be unfair, and so too can the academic results. A group of students is awarded the same grade; individuals in a group aren’t graded differently. This means that, when a group does well, it’s thanks to the students who do most of the work. The students who don’t do their part exploit the labor of the students who do.
Ask your friends how they feel about group work, and you’re sure to get a variety of responses. Some will tell you they love the process of collaborating, while others will say they resent collaborative projects because they end up doing most of the work. Other friends might even confess to you that they’re the ones who tend to slack off.
Because group work in school and the workforce isn’t always fair, does that mean high schools should abandon it altogether? Some people, if given the chance to eradicate group work, would do so without hesitating. But group work in high school should remain a part of the curriculum, as it teaches students how to collaborate with other students at the post-secondary level as well as with colleagues in the workforce.
The Importance of Group Work
Group work teaches students taking online high school credits in Ontario essential interpersonal and process management skills.
Interpersonal skills include:
- Communicating productively in group settings
- Building friendly working relationships with peers
- Having an open mind to differences at school and in the workplace, including religious, cultural, and political differences
- Negotiating with peers who share different views to reach a common consensus
- Handling and de-escalating conflict
- Building a culture of mutual respect
Process management skills include:
- Meeting group deadlines or negotiating them when necessary
- Assigning fair amounts of work
- Identifying group work goals and dividing workload accordingly
These and other interpersonal and process management skills high school group work teaches students are essential to excelling in academic and professional work settings.
Fair and Productive Group Work
To work fairly and productively in group settings at the high school level helps when instructors implement effective group work strategies. It helps, for instance, when instructors:
- Provide enough freedom for group members to make their own decisions (within reason)
- Devise group projects where students work in phases
- Have individual students prove they’re doing their part (by, for instance, requiring individual students to submit individual work that’s relevant to the group project)
On the students’ end, they can work fairly and productively when they:
- Listen actively to the other students in their group
- Lead by example while also holding the other group members accountable
- Work with other students to identify core goals
- Communicate effectively in a non-threatening manner
The Bottom Line
Group work at the secondary level teaches students interpersonal and process management skills they will need to excel at the post-secondary level as well as in the workforce. Unfortunately, in reality, when students work together it’s common that some end up doing most of the work while others slack off.
To avoid that trap, instructors can implement strategies designed to promote fair group work, and students can lead by example while also holding their fellow group members accountable.