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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Professors Assign Group Work

I hear it every term from students, "I don't like group work."  This does not come as a surprise to me.  Group work is more difficult because you have to interact with other people who might not share your ideas on how the work should be organized, commitment to learning or understanding of the assignment.

So, why do professors assign group work?  Many professors recognize that a college education is more then having students learn the content of their discipline, especially undergraduate.  This is one reason many Universities require students to take courses across many disciplines for their undergraduate degrees.  Professors understand that there are a variety of skills that are necessary to be successful in the workplace.  Certainly, assignments will relate to the content of the discipline and course, but other skills such as communication skills, critical thinking skills, conflict resolution skills are implicit in ALL group work regardless of the discipline.

In creating  group assignments, I think about the developmental opportunities for students.  In working in the private sector for some time, I realized the importance of excellent communication skills in the workplace.  If students are unable to communicate substantial ideas to other students, they will struggle in the workplace to do the same.  Many of the skills inherent in group work are the skills employers value.  You may one day be working with colleagues from around the world without everyone being physically present in one location. More and more work assignments require people who can complete projects online with virtual groups.   

We will address how to be an effective group member and what to do about non-participating group members, common issues when doing group work, in a  later blog.

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