Why She Hates Group Projects

by admin on April 15, 2015

I am a Medical student. One would think a certain degree of maturity and consideration for other people comes with this career choice, however, this is not true in all cases.

We were asked to do a group project for our Pharmacology class and placed in groups of five by the professor, based on the alphabetical order of our last names. Out of the four people I had to work with, three were responsible, hard-working individuals who finished their part on time (we divided the work so each of us could focus on a different aspect) as did I. The other group member, whose name is “J”, was the problem. His part of the project (which he chose) was the easiest one, but he gave us his contribution incredibly late and didn’t bother writing a summary like we all had done. Not only that, but he had tons of references (we are almost certain he copied all of the from some article’s bibliography and had not actually read them), more that the rest of us combined, even if his part was less relevant.

Only one person was allowed by our professor to do the presentation of the group’s work (in short, most of the talking), and another person would do the Power Point that would be used in this presentation (a matter of copy & paste mostly, since each member also did their own slides, we just needed them put together with a consistent format). It was extra work, but we all agreed to draw lots to see who would do it. “S” wound up having to do the actual presentation while “J” was supposed to provide the Power Point for her.

The night before the presentation, at 1 a.m., the final Power Point had not been uploaded to our group cloud. At first, “J” tried dispersing blame, saying that the earlier version of the Power Point (which we had been tweaking together as a group that morning without much contribution from him when he should have had it ready by then) was not available to him. This was not true, as I had personally uploaded it just as soon as the meeting ended. Other group member confirmed this, it was indeed in our group cloud. I also informed him that if he had not been able to find it he could have said so at any point during the previous 13 hours (the time elapsed since our group meeting).

This other group member informed “J” that he was being terribly inconsiderate, especially towards “S”, who had gone to bed already without the chance to practise her speech with the actual Power Point that would be used. “J” then complained that he “had a life” and hadn’t been able to do it, but that he would before going to bed. The presentation was scheduled at 4 p.m. but we had morning classes starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m., with two spare hours in between lessons.

As soon as I woke up I checked my phone, which I had put on silent to get some sleep, and “J” had said that the final version of the Power Point had been uploaded. I rushed to check while having breakfast, and found out that the Power Point he had uploaded late at night was an even earlier version of the one we’d been working on the day before. At first, I wanted to believe my tablet was faulty and opening the wrong file. Not true. The supposedly final file was nothing but a very early version, and it was easy to tell because the order of the slides was wrong (“J” got it wrong despite us telling him clearly the right order before he put it together).

Then I thought he’d made a mistake and uploaded the wrong file, and when I saw him in class he told me he had the right one in a flash drive with him and would upload it as soon as he could. I must also say that the day’s lessons did not require attendance, I understood however that he wanted to be there and would probably upload it during our two spare hours. When that time came he said he needed to go to a committee meeting (he had not informed us of this, but it was true) and that after that he would go home and upload it from there.

“S” and I asked him if he could lend us his flash drive for a second, so “S” could copy it and have immediate access to the final file in order to practise the presentation in those two spare hours. He kept mumbling excuses and saying he had to go home to upload it. That’s when we understood that he had not done it, or else he would have let us see the file. I called him out on this, repeating the earlier comment that he was inconsiderate, and telling him that he was in a group project and he had to mind the rest of the group too. He stormed out saying that if we wanted it done we should just do it ourselves.

That’s exactly what we did, “S” and I called an emergency group meeting, and the remaining four members finished the Power Point so “S” could finally practise with it (I should say she knew what she had to say perfectly and did wonderfully that afternoon, but the lack of Power Point had stressed her out a lot).

We debated whether to leave “J”‘s name out of the project and inform our professor but we didn’t want to be snitches, or risk a bad grade because of him so we decided not to. I also didn’t want any more trouble, and I resolved to just ignore him from then on. We also found out through Facebook that he had been at a classmate’s birthday party the previous afternoon, and that was why he had done nothing. We could hardly believe it.

Our two spare hours ended and we headed to class, but he was not there. A friend of mine told me she’d just seen him at the library, studying for a different subject. Apparently it was alright for him to skip class to study for other subjects, but not to actually do the work we’d been counting on him to do.

The presentation went really well, as I have said, despite his absolute lack of effort throughout the whole project. The rest of our contributions were good and “S” explained them well. That would have been the end of it, but what really inflamed me was that when a classmate asked a question about the project “J” immediately started talking, saying things that had nothing to do with the question.

This question had been very specific and referred by name to something I had researched, so I said out loud “this is MY part” so he could hear me. He ignored me and went on talking, now saying things that, while still not related to the question and a little nonsensical, bore some resemblance to yet another thing I had personally researched. This was clearly an attempt to be noticed by the professor (who talked to every one of us about our involvement in the project so there was actually no point in doing it and he knew this, just wanted to show off in front of her and our classmates). I said, again out loud (but I don’t think the professor heard me), “this is also MY part”.

He showed no sign of stopping so I just cut in, actually addressing my classmate’s question, and earning positive feedback from my professor (she didn’t make any comment on my interrupting “J” but I believe it was obvious he was just saying the first thing that came to mind and not actually contributing anything).

I had never encountered this kind of behavior before and I am honestly appalled. Not only did “J” do next to nothing at all, he never apologised, blamed the rest of us, and even tried to take credit for something that I had researched.

I am still in doubt about whether we should have raised this with our professor (we are aware that other groups had similar problems and didn’t tell her but it wasn’t this extreme) or if it was better to avoid confrontation (it could, and would get ugly with “J” involved). What really worries me though, is that we have years ahead of us, and probably more group projects in the future, and his last name is the next one to mine alphabetically. It is highly likely that we will be in the same group again.

How do I let him know that I won’t let him piggyback his way to a good grade through my work again? I could still tell on him, but that seems like a petty course of action and likely to raise more trouble than it’s worth (after all, I’ve got a good grade, just for this once I could let it slide that he earned a good grade too, but undeserved, and just remind him that it won’t happen again).

In the meantime, I would like you all to please accompany me in condemning him to the deepest pit of eHell (or whatever Hell you see fit, since I’m not sure if this is a breach of etiquette or something else entirely).    0408-15

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Cherry91 April 16, 2015 at 2:54 am

I had a partner like this once – he always did the bare minimum and expected ne to pick up the slack. I complained to the teacher, but she said it was out of her hands- she’d been told to pair better students with poor/lazy ones to try and average out some of the worse grades in the class.

I finally snapped while working on, funnily enough, a presentation, and informed my partner that I refused to carry him anymore, and if he didn’t do the work for the presentation, I would put slides on tbe Powerpoint saying “If X had bothered to do the work, this is where it would be.”

He did the work.

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Tracy W April 16, 2015 at 7:27 am

That’s appalling teaching not only for kids like you, but also for the kids with the failing grades. The teacher wasn’t trying to work out why those kids were failing, eg had they misunderstood some earlier material, she was just trying to fix up their grades.

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Uni April 16, 2015 at 6:06 am

I think by the time university comes around they should eliminate group projects. If you haven’t learnt to work together by that time you never will and you will just cost people who are working their ass of grades. I had issues every time I did a group project including someone who used the word “thingie” in a scientific report because he did practice. Then another where the person did the wrong condition and I had to not only write their powerpoint but also their speech before class. Then the last time was no one’s fault by 2 of the 5 person team went into emergency surgery. Despite extensions we had spent ages worrying and stressing and it still caused extra stress and work.

If your going to give group subjects because you insist there is a reason they need to be very minimal marks, or you have the choice to group up or something so it doesn’t stuff people over so very much and sometimes screw their overall score and chance to get into higher degrees later.

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manybellsdown April 16, 2015 at 9:32 am

Yes, the last program I’d enrolled in was nearly all made up of women in their 30’s or older. We’d all worked or were working, we all knew how to work with others. But somehow we had to get 6 busy women to clear space in their schedules to meet outside of class time to work on this stuff. Thank god for Google Docs.

And even then, in one of those classes a 35-year-old woman thought a Wikipedia Talk page was an appropriate citiation to use.

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Cat April 16, 2015 at 7:20 am

I was in a group in which we were to share the work and to share the grade. One person did nothing and, at the time, I said nothing and let her have the grade she had not earned. That was many years ago. Today, I would go to the professor and explain that one of our members was doing nothing. Without giving a name, I would simply ask how that should be handled so as to be fair to the group.
This is common with group work. One person sees no need to do anything since the group will have to do his/her part in order to make the needed grade.

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Christine April 16, 2015 at 8:14 am

In college I hated group projects, but there was one in particular that stood out as way worse than the rest. It was for a mid-level business class was divided into groups of 4. This class had over 160 students so I KNOW the professor wasn’t aware of who pulled their weight and who didn’t. I got paired with three guys. One was a total slacker/stoner. The other two were middle eastern and didn’t speak English well at all. One of them basically said he planned on doing no work, and the other could not write a grammatically correct sentence to save his life. It became apparent that if I wanted a decent grade, I’d be doing most of the work. I would have been fine with that, except the bad writer demanded that he write up a big portion of our 30 page paper. I was happy he wanted to contribute, but I spent 4 hours correcting his spelling and grammar errors. He “fixed” them, and it was worse than before. We went back and forth like this 3 times. I spent far more time helping him with his portion that if I had just written the entire thing myself.

We ended up with a B- (which even the two slackers got), partly because the other guy refused to let me revise his portion and we got it back totally marked up by the professor for vocab mistakes.

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Mary April 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

I would have secretly turned in my revised version of the report to show the professor that the work had done properly by at least one member of the group.

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Ashley April 16, 2015 at 12:41 pm

I feel your pain with the bad writers. One of the women I was in a group with for earlier portions of a project in my business class, her writing is literally painful to read. There was one sentence she submitted that I read out loud to my husband, you should have seen his face. The sentence was so bad I couldn’t even tell what she was TRYING to say and ended up having to make something up on the spot.

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wren April 17, 2015 at 9:01 am

Oh, if only you could quote that sentence. I need a laugh right now and things like that do it for me.

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NostalgicGal April 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm

At least when I was in a group where the other two were foreign and neither from the same country, plus the lab instructor was from yet a different country (so English got mangled regularly, and I would have English pronunciation lessons for my co-group so we could understand each other…very nicely done but mandatory!) at least my skill was English was my first language. They had advanced degrees so they multiplied the matrices and I wrote the reports!

I had a friend that her spelling was so bad that spellchecker was a godsend, except she’d override it, and teach it the wrong thing (Yelling at me that it wasn’t spelled l-a-b-e-l but l-a-b-l-e wasn’t going to change the dictionary spelling to what she used!). After about 3 weeks someone would have to reinstall it and reeducate it and finally after the fourth pass, it was a dedicated educate the spellchecker by a few of us that could spell, then lock it off with a password she didn’t know so it would do the job and she couldn’t muck with it any more. Sigh.

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Library Diva April 17, 2015 at 7:58 am

Yikes. My husband is a terrible speller, but at least he knows it. Often, though, his spell check can’t guess what he meant. There have been a few occasions where I couldn’t, either.

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NostalgicGal April 17, 2015 at 10:49 am

THEN, there’s ‘Autocorrect’ and that combined with someone with poor spelling skills, can be between hilarious and OMG. Now that DH and I both have phones that you can actually see the keyboard and text with and unlimited texting… I told him he better not text anyone else on the planet as he has had some real doozies he doesn’t want let loose in public. (the person I mentioned though was someone I met in college and ended up working together with for awhile. She still maintains that ‘label’ is l-a-b-l-e and the dictionary is wrong)

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Erin Mackey April 18, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Omg. That is a fantastic story. I often wonder “who does that?” And then I get schooled.

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chipmunky April 16, 2015 at 8:18 am

Group projects were the bane of my existence throughout school, up into college. I always wanted a good grade, and my assigned teammates were generally useless/lazy/uninterested. I ended up requesting opportunities to do the project myself, without outside interference/assistance from a group.

I’m still dealing with the occasional group project in my current degree. My group in my current class is good, but we’re three motivated individuals. In my last group, the presentation was given to one individual to finish adding his details, AFTER we’d gone over it 3 times the night prior. All he had to do was tack on 2 slides at the end. Instead, he changed the entire format of the presentation, completely disrupting the flow of the discussion, and we looked like fools. The three of us who had the original went and spoke to the professor after the presentations and explained what happened. We got full marks, but don’t know what happened with the guy who decided to play games with our minds.

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RayRay April 16, 2015 at 9:22 am

I had this same issue in school. I always hated it when the professor announced a group project.

We were a group of five and each individual had their project that would be added to the group and presented as a whole. Out of the five of us, only two did the work. My partner and I quickly realised that our other group members weren’t interested in doing any work but still wanted credit. The two of us did everything; the notes, the slides, and the model.

The only upside was that my professor noticed that something was off with our group. She always saw my partner and I working hard while the rest of the group were doing nothing. Before the presentation was due, she pulled me aside and asked me what was going on. I told her everything. How only two of us had done the work and the other three had not contributed anything. She understood and said she would take care of it.

When it was my groups turn to give the presentation, the other three wanted the notes and cards that partner and I had prepared so that they could act like they had participated. When we finished, the professor started asking each team member a question: “What was your role in your group?” She asked the other three first and they sputtered that they had done the notes and the cards. The professor put them on the spot and said, “It’s obvious that the three of you did little to no work and that you’re trying to take credit for something you didn’t do. I’m very disappointed in the three of you and you will not receive any credit for this project.”

It was sweet, juicy justice. Partner and I aced the project and the other three failed.

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Mary April 16, 2015 at 9:59 am

Nice!

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NostalgicGal April 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm

BRAVO!

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GroupProjectHater April 17, 2015 at 1:31 pm

OP here, that sounds SO nice! If only my professor had been more perceptive…
Still, reading everyone’s horror stories about group projects I don’t understand how they let these things keep happening over and over again. Some comments suggested a group member evaluation (as in, you grade the other group members based on their work) and I think that’s a wonderful idea. That could be the solution to my problems.

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Wendy B April 16, 2015 at 9:45 am

I think we all have nightmare stories about group projects, and I agree, they need to just not be done. 🙂

When I was in college I took a class on the American Civil War. The main class was a couple hundred students, but once a week we also met for smaller classes with TAs. We had been split into groups and were expected to participate in certain activities as groups. I got three people who were only taking the class as an elective and didn’t care. One of the first things we were supposed to do was take on a certain role and defend our position. Our group’s role was a Southern aristocrat. I was the only one who bothered to defend our position, the other three sat like lumps. Then one of the guys said, “Wow, you’re good at this!” Huh? I just bothered to actually read the material thankyouverymuch. I ended up joining another group…without saying a word to the TA…and ignored the others. (We weren’t technically being graded on our “group work” so I don’t think the TA cared).

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Cheryl April 16, 2015 at 9:51 am

It is impressive that you haven’t encountered something like this before, you have a group of people and there seems to always be one who is a total slacker because he/she knows that the others will pick up the slack, after all it is your grade as well. I always hated group projects like this, especially when the teacher picked the groups, if they were friends, I would call them out on their lack of work on the project. However, when I was working on my masters degrees, this would always happen in the group, we would be assigned a project and between 3-5 group members, and the one who showed little effort would give every excuse in the book, however, due to being a master’s program, and at the beginning of every class, the syllabus is given out which defines all homework, test and projects to be completed and we have to sign something not just about cheating but being able to put forth necessary effort to complete the assignments. This one time, the entire project which was split up into pieces but in the end all of the pieces would come together and be presented. In my group there was 4 of us, I was the lead, so we talked, and it was decided that we would have a phone meeting on Monday to go over the project, pick the parts we were going to complete and turn them in on the group cloud by midnight Thursday, to be reviewed and provide feedback by noon on Saturday and once all feedback was provided, then we would all take turns incorporating the feedback and turning it in on Sunday by noon. For three of us this was no problem, however, the 4th guy, he was sick, his kid was sick, he had to travel for his job and the excuses go on and on. By week 3 we were beyond tired of dealing with this, this was an online class, but the rest of us have lives, things to do/take care of but we do so with the time to make the effort to complete the project. I talked to this guy several times and he kept promising to better but week after week it would get worse until on week 3 he didn’t turn in anything and I had to last minute do research and write his part. When this happened, I went directly to the teacher, showed all of the correspondence, his level of effort of the work/lack there of and his unwillingness to respect everyone else and the fact that we do our work and are able to turn it in on time but he was late or not at all. The teacher stated that he can’t be moved but that he grade would reflect everything. At the end of the project, he was on the group board, and was ranting because he got and F for the project, I informed him that he was the only one, the rest of us received A’s. He was furious, he went to the teacher who had been ghosted into the chat room to be able to view all that he contributed, which was nothing and was able to see his original post of his work and etc. and was not impressed. Once I informed him that I had gone to the teacher originally and that she was a “group member” in order to see first hand what he was/wasn’t doing, the quality of work and etc. she based his grade upon that and that he would need to take it up with her. He apologized and started with the excuses, my final words were that we all have lives, jobs, kids and etc. but we managed our time and put forth the effort to do this project while re-writing his pieces in the processes to ensure that we would have A’s in the class, what he got he deserved, this of course, set him off. My philosophy is that I will treat you with the respect that you give me, it is a two way street and if you don’t have no problem giving you to the teacher, you lack of planning and management does not denote a state of emergency on my part to cover you. If you are in college, have respect for those in your group that you would like to have bestowed upon you. You want to be an adult then I will call you out on things like this, admit it and try better. In the end this person was dropped from the program due to his grades.

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Annie April 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

Ah, group work. I did a group project in college that spanned three quarters and was our whole grade for one class. I was in a team with 3 nice people, who did not have the knowledge to do the project, so I did almost all of it myself. At the beginning, I tried to explain what I was doing and bring them into the process, but they weren’t interested so after a while I didn’t bother. Our adviser also had very little knowledge and wasn’t much help.

At the end of the year, during an awards ceremony, the head of our department said in front of everyone that I had stepped up and done most of the project. I had never complained to anyone, and the head wasn’t directly involved with my project. That clued me into the fact that my department had given me this team because they knew I would carry them. For this reason, and several other reasons, I do not give donations to my alma mater.

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Erin Mackey April 18, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Wow, that’s a sadly familiar story. It was always the worst to be tasked with saving someone’s bacon because they couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work and the prof was too chicken or embarrassed to bounce someone in the department.

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Rosie April 16, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Like so many here, I hated group projects of most of my academic life. In high school, I was the stereotypical smart kid that got paired with the weaker students in order to “help” them. I’m not convinced that is the best way to do group projects. In grad school however, we had to do a lot of group projects with our cohort of 35 students. We got to know each other pretty well, and we got used to working with people who had different skill sets. It helped that most of us were equally motivated. I did have one group project from hell in a class that was open to all students at the school, not just my grad program. In my field, I have to do a fair amount of “group projects” essentially, since there are multiple people on a team to deliver a project. I’m glad for the group project experience in grad school because it was specific to the field and actually made me better at my job now.

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cece April 16, 2015 at 2:08 pm

the worst group projects i had were not the ones with a slacker, but the ones that had an overbearing overachieving jerk with a superiority/martyr complex. that person (or sometimes, there was a pair of them) would decide all the other members were “useless” from the start then proceed to do the whole project by themselves and allow no input from other group members other than to have them read notecards or hold a poster or flip the powerpoint slides during the presentation.

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Marozia April 17, 2015 at 3:35 am

Yep, we had those at school too!
It all comes down to personalities. If a person in the group is introverted and works well with quiet settings, let them do their allotted work that way. If another is unsure, giving them helpful tips and patience works for them, etc, etc. The trick is, I think, not to just disregard people as ‘slackers’ and ‘useless’ and do the work yourself, all have to pull weight.

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Chefnutmeg April 17, 2015 at 1:25 am

The worst I had went something like this, it’s been awhile.

First class: Hear about project, biography of famous woman in US history
Second Class: Pick Groups (Myself A and D) and person (Juliet Gordon Lowe) Split work three ways A: Birth to marriage Me: Marriage to starting scouts D: Scouts and impact.
Third class: Discussion
Between class three and four, A had some family emergency come up, keeping in touch by email, we’re still on point.
Class five: A drops class due to emergency, informs us, we rearrange project. Now Me: Early life-scouts D: History of Girl guides inspiring scouting, scouting and impact.
Research continues
Class Eight: Presentation No sign of D, I had poster, Professor had me present my half, which TOTALLY threw off what I had cause a lot of it became “Which d will tell you mroe about next time:” LIghtly touched on scouting, impact so as not to steal her thunder.
Class nine: Teacher asks if I knew D was going to drop the course. Hadn’t heard from her since class seven, reminding me to bring the poster. -face palm-

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The Elf April 17, 2015 at 7:27 am

I hope the teachers on this thread are reading these comments!

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Monica Rynders April 17, 2015 at 10:39 am

I went to an all girls college that had an alternate curriculum and grading style. It was pass fail, and we were taught to achieve specific criteria instead of shooting for ‘good enough’ grades. It’s hard to explain but it was an amazing education and when I later went to a normal uni for my masters, I have to admit that my masters program was way easier than my undergrad.

At my undergrad, there was a HUGE emphasis on group projects. You were guaranteed to have several of them in each class, every semester. Being able to work in groups is a huge life skill, but it is one that is hard to demonstrate outside of school.

Each freshman was required to take what was called “Small Groups Behavior,” where we essentially learned how to work in groups. We learned about group dynamics, behaviors, how to tell if someone has what is called “blocking behavior,” and also techniques to make sure everyone is involved and pulling their weight.

By having so many group projects throughout our first two years, we were masters at working together by the time we got into the more advanced courses.

I’m currently an instructor at a community college now and I really wish I could instruct my students in the same way and give them more group projects. Yeah, they may be annoying and you may end up doing more than your share of work but they’re phenomenal for teaching problem solving and learning how to deal with difficult people in a safe environment where there are no financial risks/job security involved.

I am sorry that your teacher was not more proactive in instructing this jerk of a student, though. In several group projects I was involved with, we all had to individually give an account of who did what and sometimes that would include pie graphs of how the tasks were distributed. It’s how I learned very early on that I can be a bit controlling when it comes to projects, and I needed to let other people be involved more (because they needed to learn, too) even if I knew I could do it better.

While your classmate was definitely a jerk, the parameters of the assignment also don’t make sense to me. How is one person presenting and one person doing the power point representative of the group? If you were all involved in the project, you should all be involved in presenting it.

I don’t think drawing lots was a very effective way of dealing things out. It makes it sound like no one was willing to step up and take initiative of the group in the first place and w/o a definitive leader, everything fell apart.

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Arwen April 17, 2015 at 10:55 am

Here’s my group project story.

My senior year of high school, I had a 4.0 and was on track to be valedictorian. I decided to join the yearbook staff, which was a graded class. Towards the end of the year, we had to do a page as a group, with each person taking one task (captions, photos, article, layout). If this project was not done on time, we could not get an A in the class. Three of us got our work done, but the fourth would just. not. do. it. It was the layout person, and he was the only one with permission/access to do the work on the computer. We talked to the teacher, and the teacher wouldn’t budge on letting someone else do the work just to meet the deadline, it had to be this guy.

He missed the deadline. I had all A work in the class except for that one project – it took my grade down to a B and was the only B I got in all of high school. I lost my valedictorian status, even though I went to the teacher and asked if I could do any extra credit work, showed that I had completed my part on time, was there anything I could do. Nope.

To rub salt in the wound, this guy was the teacher’s pet. He still got an A in the class! And…went on to be a valedictorian (we didn’t know about this until graduation practice – I was like, why is he a valedictorian, he had to have gotten a B as well. Nope.). This was the only time my parents got involved – they usually let us fight our own battles by this age, but they talked to the teacher, the principal, etc. The teacher would NOT budge, even when the principal requested I be allowed a make up project. It’s been 21 years and I am still a little bitter – partly because it cost me some scholarships. All over a stupid freaking yearbook class and a project I had no control over.

I hate group projects.

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Angel April 19, 2015 at 9:40 pm

That is simply awful! I couldn’t imagine letting a group project determine any student’s final grade in a class. I don’t blame you at all for being bitter. It is a very tough thing to go through especially at that age. If the teacher could see that the student responsible for doing the layout on the computer is not meeting the deadline, the teacher is the one responsible for making sure it gets done no matter what–if that means assigning someone else to do it, so be it. In fairness the one who did not meet the deadline should have been the one with the lower grade. And the principal really needed to intervene on that. I think that if a teacher is being unreasonable the principal should be allowed to override the teacher. Especially when the stakes are that high. The teacher also did his “pet” no favors by giving him an A in a class where he did not earn it. He probably got eaten alive once he got to undergrad. One would hope, anyway.

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Phoenix April 17, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Ah, group projects. I had 2 terrible incidences with these projects.

The first was way back in Sociology class. We all got assigned to a group of 4 and set up our meeting times and everything. 3 of us made it to all the meetings, kept in constant contact through facebook, and eventually we all got our parts done. The 4th person didn’t make it to ANY of the meetings (and her only excuse in the second meeting was “my car broke”, which I bet was a lie). Any work she turned in was minimal at best and was just a copy+paste of some random article with NO sources whatsoever (not even links), so we couldn’t use them.

Luckily the professor had no tolerance for leaches and demanded to report anyone who didn’t pull their weight. So we reported the 4th member and had her dropped out of our group. Now this essay we worked was pretty much worth a whole letter grade, so the best she would have gotten was a B now that she could not do the essay.

The second bad partner was actually this semester. It was French class and the professor partnered us up to do a dialogue. My partner made little effort to contact me and I essentially made the script and everything. Then he got sick and missed 2 days of class. I sent him a text to see if he would be alright for our presentation, and he said he would. The weekend of the presentation comes around, and I send him a text. He then tells me that he dropped out of the class. I was essentially partnerless on the weekend before the presentation. I cut contact with him before emailing the professor. The professor extended the dialogue for me, which is good.

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mark2 April 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm

As a teacher, I know that group projects are a waste of valuable time. When the projects are “divided” up, a single person only truly learns that small section. Even when the pieces are put together in the final round, it’s value is 1. questionable ( because experts are not making the presentation, just your peers) 2. often out of context or rational order 3. often low quality ( as demonstrated in all the above posts). It’s used most often by lazy teachers.

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Amy April 17, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Good teachers should construct group projects that include individual grades as well as a group grade with the group grade being less weighted. Projects should be constructed so that there are discreet pieces so that the work can be split up properly and everyone has to put their name on what they did. This is what I was taught in my education classes.

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Kat April 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I understand how much group work can be difficult. But at the same time if there is a legitimate issue you should cut the person some slack. I was in nursing school and managed to, in a patient’s room, impale my hand with a pencil. (It apparently was leaned against a bag at an awkward angle, with the lead up, and my hand came down on it, because I didn’t know it was there.) We were giving our patient a bed bath and my hand came down on the pencil, I held it up, thought she saw it and left the room to find my instructor and you know, have the pencil removed. My partner complained and complained to everyone that I had simply “run out of the room and left her to do all the work.” Give me a break, I’d never seen a pencil going into my hand before! My professor pulled it out and cleaned and bandaged the wound. It healed fine but I still have a scar.

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A April 18, 2015 at 5:55 pm

I feel your frustration. I also always seemed to end up in project groups like this. I wish the teachers and professors had an online evaluation in which people could anonymously evaluate their peers at least by the end of the class. It is difficult to be a snitch but then again does a slacker really deserve a nice grade like the nice hardworking folk?

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Lara April 18, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Just this week my son, who is in third grade, was describing his first ever pairs project, and almost the first thing he said was, “Mom, my partner doesn’t want to do anything! I’ve done all the work so far, and he’s done almost nothing!” I had to laugh, having recently read this discussion thread, and told him that, unfortunately, this is a problem that basically every person who’s ever gone through school has had.

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cicero April 19, 2015 at 4:42 am

ahh, yes. the “group project”. pet peeve of mine. had my share of slackers, over-achiever/control freaks, the “oh i dropped out of the class”, and so on.

One professor actually controlled the presentation and asked each team member questions to ascertain his or her level of participation in the group effort, which i think more teachers should do – I mean, they *have* to know that there are slackers in each group, right?

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Jane April 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm

As a College professor I have to chime in on this discussion. I do assign group projects because you have to learn to wok in a group and face adversity throughout your life. So how do I solve this big problem. At the very end, the students grade each other on their participation and this is a huge percentage of the grade. You don’t participate, there goes half your grade and you fail. BOOM!

As for the original poster, do you really want to see that person as a doctor?? I don’t and neither do the rest of these people. You need to tell the professor. He’s cheating you, your fellow students who worked so hard, and he’s cheating in the class.

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Angel April 19, 2015 at 9:24 pm

As a former teacher, I completely understand why teachers assign group projects–it is all about socialization, team building, and learning to work together towards a common goal. But IMO that does not make them suck any less. Especially if there is that one kid who you just cannot rely upon to get his work in on time. As a teacher I used to assign these group projects on occasion–mostly because these were projects that were standard for that particular grade level and all the other teachers on that grade level would assign the same project. But I would always give not only the group grade but individual grades as well. This way if there was a slacker within the group, they would not be allowed to simply piggyback on the rest of the group’s efforts. Usually simply announcing this at the outset was enough to dissuade the slackers. They knew that even if the group earned a terrific grade collectively, if they didn’t do their share of the work, their individual grade would be awful–and awful averaged together with terrific–equals just plain mediocre. So I think that if the teacher monitors the progress of the groups as best as they can, group projects don’t have to be so awful. It probably becomes more difficult to do this at the undergraduate and graduate levels, but I think that teachers should definitely make an attempt to do this. Just in fairness to the majority of the students who are putting their best efforts into the project.

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MICHELLE April 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

“J” sounds to me like a sociopath (someone without a conscience, who seeks to blame others for anything they themselves cause).

Of course…I’m currently reading a book called “The Sociopath Next Door”, which pretty much means I see sociopathy in everyone! (It’s a good book though – lots of interesting case studies).

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Enna April 20, 2015 at 11:28 am

How to deal with slackers is an important life skill however it is not fair when others, who work hard loose out in marks for education. I think bringing up concerns with the professor is reasonable. Make sure that you don’t loan J any of your notes or essays because I wouldn’t put it past him to plagiarise them.

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TheCatLady April 22, 2015 at 8:56 am

Some years ago the company i work for hired a guy that had a group project as part of his resume. It was an impressive project and helped him get hired. Fast forward a few years later and we had learned the only thing this guy did was get good at getting other people to do his work. He was barely hanging on to his job, when a new guy came in for an interview. Much to the bosses surprise he brought out the same project as the lazy guy! Except for one thing…that guy had all of the background materials and research that went with the paper, as well as the graded project. When he found out lazy man used his proejct to get a job he was pretty irritated. Unfortunately for lazy man, the bosses decided to use his blatant theft of the other guys work to get rid of him.

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Katie May 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

My worst group project was during my senior year of undergrad. I was taking a world lit class to fill a gap in my minor curriculum (international studies), which was made up of primarily freshmen and a few senior basketball players who, I assume took the class because it fit in their practice/game schedule (no judgement; they all took the class seriously). In addition to the regular class curriculum, there was a group project where each group had to present on a historically based film, comparing the film to historical research. The project was graded in three parts; presentation, paper, and evaluation by the other group members. I was assigned a group of three freshman girls, A, B, and C. We divided parts and I agreed to act as group leader and put the parts together in a single paper. A agreed to combine slides for the power point presentation.

Fastforward to the Saturday before the project was due (Monday class). I had completed my part, sent my slides to A, and received papers from A and B. A’s paper was presentable, and I only had to modify for formating and some minor grammatical errors. B’s paper was completed, but was poorly cited and terribly written. However, it was quite clear that is wasn’t that she hadn’t tried, but that she had received a deplorable previous education. Quite frankly, I was happy to revise her portion and sent it back to her to for a final okay. C failed to provide me with anything. I attempted to contact her, hoping that she would get me her portion in time to prepare for class, but preemptively researched and wrote her portion, and even prepared slides for A to add to her slideshow. The day of the presentation came, and C failed to show up. She never sent anything to A or I. Luckily, my professor had the forethought to have the “group evaluation” p0rtion and I evaluated my group members accordingly. After the next class, my professor pulled me aside to C’s lack of contribution. I was told she would be graded accordingly. I also brought up my concerns regarding B’s writing abilities, hoping the professor would be able to help her (she was a very sweet, caring professor who went out of her way to help her students).

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