Group Projects

My younger son came home from middle school last week with an assignment for a group project.

I hated group projects in school. There always seemed to be two types of people in these groups: 1) The students who didn’t care, pay attention or take initiative because they knew there were others in the group who would; 2) The students who did care, pay attention and take initiative and did all the work because they didn’t trust the people in the first group to follow through.

Guess which group I was in? (Clearly, I’m still a little bitter.)

I understand the rationale behind a group project. The teacher wants students to learn to collaborate; a helpful skill, for sure. But to my thinking, most group projects fall short because there is more to successful teamwork than just putting random people together in the same group. In doing this, the assumption is that everyone is willing and able to contribute equally. But as I’m sure you know from your own experience at school and work, that is not reality.

A successful group project, whether at school or in your ministry, will include the following components:

  1. A clear assignment. The due date and expected outcome are clearly defined and communicated to all.
  2. Role delineation. The younger or less experienced the members of the group, the more direction is needed to clarify individual roles and responsibilities. Sometimes a leader will emerge from within the group to provide this, but often the group will need at least some guidance.
  3. Evaluation rubric. The definition of “success” and how it is measured is clear.
  4. Assessment of individual participation and group process. If one of the goals of group projects is the development of collaboration skills, then evaluation of process is just as important as the assessment of the finished product. Are there tangible consequences for those who don’t pull their weight, or rewards for those who do?
In my experience, most group projects include #1 but neglect some or all of #2, #3 and #4. What has been your experience with group projects?



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