Group Work: The Sum of Its Parts

Jessica Chotiner ’17
Opinion Editor
College teaches us many lessons and though I could spend paragraphs listing the gamut, I want to comment on one in particular. In college, I have been forced to work with people; as a member of group project, as a lab partner, and as a roommate. Hopefully, everyone has had that experience because learning to work with others is key. Learning to work with others in this sense is not just about sharing crayons, but sharing ideas, and most importantly, sharing responsibility.
Our time as undergraduates is the perfect opportunity to dip our toes into what will soon be a lifetime of working with other people.
In grade school, parents and teachers often mediate our direct work-related communication with others. In college, there is still some supervision of group work, but by and large we are on our own to motivate the people we work with as members of an academic team or a club.
As frustrating as it can be to take on the burden of a multi-person project, it is easy to find oneself in the position of begging and prodding other people to simply do their share of the work.
Many people will forgo the tap-dance of pleading with someone to participate and assume all of the responsibility themselves. This strategy can work, and in certain cases is more time-effective, but for the first time this year, I have found that sometimes a “partner-assignment” is not a suggestion. There really can be too much work for one person to do alone, especially under time constraints.
As final exams approach, so do final projects, labs, and presentations, some of which are sure to be group work.
My suggestion to anyone who might find themselves with some academic human baggage is to speak up. It is good to learn the lesson that both mutual contribution leads to success and also that at times sometimes working alone is necessary.  However, it is also important to remember that this is college. We do still have the comfort of academic and professional supervision, and everyone deserves equal opportunity to earn grades that reflect their contribution and work.

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