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Is group work in school fair and helpful?

Group work often evokes mixed feelings among students and teachers. While some argue that it can be helpful to students, others argue that it’s unfair and ineffective.
According to the National Library of Medicine, 76.5% of students prefer to work in smaller groups consisting of three or less people. Photo used with photographers permission.
Anna Jabbari
According to the National Library of Medicine, 76.5% of students prefer to work in smaller groups consisting of three or less people. Photo used with photographer’s permission.

There are many ways to assess students for their academic development. One way teachers assess their students is through group work. Group work can help develop skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking. However, others would argue that group work can be unfair and ineffective towards these skills. 

“I think the biggest issue with group work is not all the work getting split up evenly amongst the group members,” said Paige Lambi, 10. 

While groups make it easier for students to get work done, the purpose of group work is to help students learn how to collaborate.

“It can be more challenging when you are put into a group with people that you aren’t familiar with. I think everyone would rather work with their friends because they are more comfortable around them,” explained Lambi. 

Communicating with peers can help academic performance. Students are more likely to seek help, ask questions and actively participate in class when they are comfortable with their classmates. 

Schuyler Fynaardt, an English teacher at Liberty High School, often assigns group work to her students to help them be more involved with their peers while making sure the workload is fair. 

“I generally do a lot of group work for daily work and class collaboration, but I give students individual points. I will often have people turn in their own worksheet, instead of doing one big group worksheet,” said Fynaardt. 

Balancing the workload amongst others can be difficult especially when there are people in the group who do not want to work. 

“Sometimes I get emails from students complaining about how people in their group are not doing their work, so I try to remind people to pick a group that they know will work well together,” explained Fynaardt. 

This is why it’s important to pick groups that will work well together, other than picking a group based on who is friends or not. It’s normal for people in a group to get too comfortable because they know one friend will do all the work and they don’t have to. 

“Group work doesn’t test an individual student, it’s very easy to piggyback off of someone and then that impacts your grade. It doesn’t accurately represent the individual students’ understanding or comprehension of the topic,” explained Lambi. 

Group work is good for students to learn life skills, but it’s not always everyone’s favorite. A student may struggle to speak with people they do not know and develop even more social anxiety. A way Fynaardt avoids this problem is by giving students the option to work in a group or not.

“Rarely will I have a project where you have to work with a group, it’s good to build the skills where you are working with people you might not know as well as others because chances are you might have to do those things in a job one day, but, I would never make kids work in a group,” said Fynaardt. 

It’s important to understand the struggles of group work. Even though it can help students improve their communication, critical thinking and collaboration skills, it can also make students develop hardships when it comes to confronting others.

In the past, I have had some experiences where my group members have relied on me to do their part of the work for them. It’s hard to tell someone that they need to do their part of the project when you don’t know if they are going to take it the right way. 

When in a group project, it’s easy to let someone do all the work and others take credit for work that they did not contribute to. Group work does not inform a teacher of an individual student’s understanding of the unit, instead, group work can create an illusion of comprehension for students, even if they don’t get it. 

Group work is important to assess students but, instead of assigning a large group project, it would be more sustainable to assign small group projects and individually assess students on their understanding of the topic. 

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About the Contributor
Hadley Andersen
Hadley Andersen, Reporter
Hadley is a sophomore at Liberty and this is her first year on the Liberty Live Wire Staff. Most of her time outside of school is spent training as an equestrian, when she is not at her barn she enjoys spending time with family, reading, and watching movies.