The classroom fills, mumbling recedes and your professor declares the beginning of your group project — here come the groans. As the room divides into smaller groups, the teams are faced with decisions as to how the next class, week or rest of semester will go. What role will they play in the group?
Sophomore business major Pete Weybright said he likes to be the leader when assigned to group projects.
“I like to figure things out and direct people,” he said.
Within group projects, there is usually a student who naturally takes the leader position. The team often leans on this person make sure everything gets done properly and who the professor turns to as a liaison.
There is sometimes a team member who will take advantage of the team leader.
This person is sometimes known as the “lazy” student, but there are ways with dealing with the so-called group member.
“I had to go to my professor many times saying he didn’t do any work and he shouldn’t get any credit,” Weybright said.
Senior marketing major Thierry Lochard said working with people who “don’t care” is difficult, but sometimes the remaining team members have to work harder to ensure the project will be the best it can be.
“Employers stress the importance of working in a team,” Lochard said. “You have responsibility, and if it is executed poorly, it is going to affect the team.”
Weybright and Lochard agree they enjoy group projects, but they would rather have the professor choose the teams rather than students.
“I end up working with my friends, and most of the time that doesn’t work out,” Weybright said. “All you want to do is goof off.”
Lochard said the worst part is not knowing anyone in the class.
“I have to find people, and I don’t know what kind of students they are,” he said.
The difficulties of finding good team members, choosing which direction to take the project in and the implementation are lessons for students to learn.
“Group work is essential,” Assistant Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship Laurent Josien said. “It is a skill, and it takes time to understand how to present an idea and how to work with someone else’s idea.”
Josien said working in a group is going to be a daily part of his students’ careers.
“It is the reality of life, and you need to be able to get the skills to work and handle and learn what you can do to make the group better,” Josien said. “Students have to utilize the strengths within the group to make things happen.”
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member can be vital to a group’s success. For example, a student could be an excellent public speaker, and playing off of his or her strengths would put the student in front of the classroom during presentation time. Putting people in the correct roles for the project is what management is all about, which is what Josien tries to convey to his students.
“It is an opportunity for students to work together and learn from one another,” Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Michael Burgess said. “It’s not meant to be easy.”
Having a focus in plant science, many of the projects involve organisms, and Burgess is open to the ideas his students create.
“I let the students dictate their own projects and approach in their work,” he said.
Burgess gives students in higher level classes the chance to work in groups, claiming it is an integral part of the curriculum. The projects he incorporates run for one class period, part of a semester or all semester long.
“You can have half an idea and the other person can have the other half,” Josien said. “Suddenly, grouping the two, you have a much better idea, and that’s how it works.”
Josien believes this idea needs to be enforced in class to get the most out of what students are being taught. He gives his classes the main idea of the project and from there the students take the reins.
“It is always interesting to see how the students apply it,” he said.
Students all across the Plattsburgh State campus are involved in group projects. How they look at the situation could make or break getting an A in the class.
“You have to make the best of it,” Weybright said. “Believe in yourself, and if you have an idea, go for it. It’s your project, too.”
Email Lisa Scivolette at firstname.lastname@example.org.