Surviving group projects can build career skills

Tyler McNeil

Creative Editor

Collaborative work horror stories are prevalent on campus, but in a tough job market, the skills gained from group work can make one more employable.

The struggle of following group projects from high school to college often follows a similar narrative: lack of participation from group members leaves a single student to take over.

“One time I had to do a group project with someone and they were sick for like a week and I had to do it all by myself. It was a real pain,” said Luther Sledge, student in the criminal justice program.

Roselin Osburg, physical education student, said of a group project during the fall 2013 semester, “There were three of us in my lab and this one guy had all of our lab information and he decided to withdraw from the class so we couldn’t do the lab and [the professor] decided to fail us.”

Communication is regarded by some students and professors as the most vital component neglected in collaborative work.

Ryan Crupa, liberal arts major recalled an episode of group activity communication failure he said occurred in mid-November. ”I was the only one who did anything. We all set out to do individual parts of a project and we were going to put it all together in class but we forgot. I was the only one who did it so we had to kind of put it together in class,” said Crupa.

“I was in English Comp[osition] 101 class and we had to critique each others papers and we just stared at each other for the rest of class. Sometimes I feel as though group work divides the class a little,” Nate Clark, a non-matriculated student said.

Other students were more positive about to engaging in group activity. “I haven’t had a really awful experience with group projects but last year I was in an American literature class where I had a really good team of people and only one of them didn’t do the work. It was more of a fun experience rather than one if we were actually working,” said Ivy Liscomb, individual studies student.

“Most of the people here are pretty reliable, though. You can’t really screw with your grades here but sometimes you run into someone who isn’t always willing,” said Charliey Prefore, third-year individual studies major. Prefore said he has had more positive experiences with group projects since entering college.

Group activity rooms are available throughout the semester within a two-hour block. During finals week, being able to get into one of these rooms is a rarity. “They’re booked solid during finals,” said part-time librarian, Jodi DesNoyers.

Professors recognize the need to incorporate group projects into the curriculum and the some of the challenges faced with group activity.

“Sometimes one person ends up doing all of the work. So to avoid that outcome, while you may collaborate on a project, there has be accountability,” said Kelly Sayers, business administration assistant professor who spoke from personal experience.

“I remember when I was way back in college that I didn’t like group projects because I did all the work usually. At the same token, I want to avoid that now that I have some power in the classroom,” said Sayers. Sayers incorporates group activities throughout her business law course.

Anthony Podlaski, associate professor in the English department since Jan. 2004, said that he has tried to incorporate collaborative work into many of his classes. “It’s something that goes on throughout your lifetime and it’s best to really start now even though students have experienced this to a smaller extent in high school,” he said.

Group involvement is steady in all fields of study across campus, including sciences. “In the lab it’s important that they work together and discuss things and help each other out in a lab setting. In the sciences, you will always be collaborating with someone else so it’s always important to get student prepped for the work force,” said Danica Nowosielski, associate professor in the biology, chemistry and physics department.

According to a recent study by Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., college graduates aren’t prepared for the jobs they go into and lack a decent work ethic.

In a 2012 State of St. Louis Workforce Report by developed by St. Louis Community College, it was revealed that over a third of employers said recent hires teamwork and collaboration skills along with writing skills and technical skills specific to the job. The study was comprised of 400 employers in the greater St. Louis area.

“We recognize that group projects are really vital in the classroom to help students move into the workforce where everything is a group project and everybody has to work together to achieve some sort of success for whoever they’re working for,” said assistant professor and owner of CTD Engineering Services, Craig D’Allaird.

 

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