Friday, October 20, 2006

Ethical Group Assignment Behaviour

The Way It Was in High School

Ever since I can remember, I've disliked group assignments in school. I was a straight-A student through high school, and this often meant that I had to do the majority of a group assignment myself if I wanted to get the kind of grade I was used to getting. The other students either didn't care enough or didn't understand the material well enough to be entrusted with a fair share of the workload.

So, my choices were either 1) to do most of the work myself, put the groups' names on the assignment, and get the A I wanted; or 2) divide the work evenly and hope the other group members would do high-quality jobs. Option #3, convincing them that it was worthwhile to strive for an A, wasn't socially viable in high school. I almost always opted for #1.

Generally Better in College

I was pleased to find group projects less common in general once I got to college. They still happen, but they aren't the norm. Even better, the people who get into college and work hard to remain in college generally don't need to be convinced of why trying for decent grades is a good thing. Sure, the students who take required support courses or GEs credit/no-credit often just do enough to get by with a C, but otherwise people try. This doesn't mean they all get the good grades, but at least they're making a more or less honest effort.

I feel a strong sense of duty to my group members (this was true even in high school of the free-loading group members). If I do a half-assed job on a solo assignment, only my own grade suffers. On a group project, I don't believe I have the right to pull down other students' grades. I will stay up later, fret more, study harder for group projects because of this.

But Still, Sometimes...

In light of college generally being better for group projects, the situation I find myself in this quarter is fairly unusual.

I've missed a couple lectures in my very early morning (read: 10 AM) class and skipped lab, making up the time at home. My lab partner had dropped class on the second day, so I was working by myself and thus had the freedom to do such things.

But this Monday, my professor emailed me to ask if I'd pair up with another student whose partner had also dropped. Of course, I said I would. We met next lab, but it turned out neither of us had read the sections of the book we needed to do the lab (which isn't due until November). We agreed to read up and meet again next lab.

Today, a third student was left high and dry by a lab partner who'd dropped. (Or at least stopped showing up -- which isn't a cool thing to do to your partner without informing them.) We were grouped into a team of three. The third guy didn't really seem to know what was going on, and it sounded like the second guy still hadn't read the chapter.

For example, there's this chart we're supposed to fill out before we start on one part of the lab. I started working on it, talking out loud about what I was thinking so my partners would have a chance to involve themselves or correct me if I was misunderstanding something. But they mostly said nothing, and generally verbally shrugged when I asked directly if they thought I was writing down the correct answers. It felt very one-sided.

So the point of this post was really just to say that I'm not sure what to do with the group project over the weekend. I think I may just do as much as I can by myself, and see if that will kick-start my groupmates next Monday. If they still don't get in the swing of things, it may be just like old times in high school...

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Lisa R said...

Can you tell your professor that your lab partners are flakes and you'd rather work alone? ;)

Alexis said...

It's totally fucked in my opinion, but it's a very valuable lesson. The more they make us do group assignments over and over again, the better a leader you have to become in order to get a really un-motivated group to do hella work.