Comments Inspired by the Cartoon Below


My oldest child had group projects in which the entire period was spent arguing whether the members’ names should go on the top of the page, in the space labeled, “name.


Please, triple it for those projects done outside of school; scheduling and transportation are nightmares. One MS teacher told me that she used to love group projects and assigned lots of them – until her child had one and she saw all of the problems at first hand. She never assigned another one. They’re unfair, they’re huge time sinks, they’re usually of dubious academic value, they usually emphasize arts and crafts far beyond the reasonable and they positively encourage cliques and bullying. Particularly in the heterogeneous, mainstreamed classroom, they specifically disadvantage the lower-ability, the shy, the ASD kids, the ADD/ADHD and any kid who is “different”; the most socially adept or powerful are able to create classroom hell for the lower-status kids.


The motivation for all these projects seems to originate from the misconceptions that educators have of teamwork in the “real world”. Teaching is among the most solitary of jobs so teachers are by far the least likely to have any experience in this realm.


Almost every discussion I’ve had with fellow profs on this topic has turned to the bitterness we feel having been made to do group work – it seems there was a large number of “social engineer” teachers out there who somehow believed the slackers would straighten up and fly right if they were just put in a group with a diligent student. No, more likely the diligent student did most of the work and silently resented the slackers.


Some teachers deliberately create groups where someone will do no work. My DD had a MS science teacher like that; it was a mixed class that had a few honors kids (all-honors classes were full), most regular and a few spec ed. The teacher assigned the groups and the honors kids were always given a spec ed kid who cried and threw tantrums if asked to do ANYTHING. After a semester of this, the honors kids asked for her to be reassigned, the teacher refused, one of the kids accused the teacher of not wanting to deal with her himself and the teacher agreed. He was being paid to deal with her; her classmates weren’t. He was an awful teacher, attitude and content-wise, and the projects were a waste of time.


I hated group projects for all the same reasons that others have already stated (i.e., slackers getting a free ride), but believe it or not, things sometimes go the other way, too: When I was in fifth grade I was in a small group of advanced readers that had been assigned to read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (gag, I know) and then create a filmstrip on it. I got stuck with two boys who hogged the drawing of practically the entire strip, and they deigned to let me illustrate one half of a slide or some such minuscule portion of the strip. The teacher ended up giving me a poor grade for my “lack of participation,” never taking into account the fact that I had been shut out by a couple of forceful personalities. That was forty years ago, but I still remember the injustice of it all.

A pox on all group projects.

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One Response to Comments Inspired by the Cartoon Below

  1. Ann in L.A. says:

    Our 12-year-old had a group project due today. There were 3 kids in the group, two hard-working girls and a boy. The boy declared openly, right at the start, that he didn’t intend to do any work on the project and left it to the two girls. There was nothing the girls could do about it.

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