Why Group Projects Matter

by Lily Frank

Teachers often assign group papers in class. Often times, group members become frustrated, confused, and fear deadlines. Group dynamics often seem as if one or two members do most of the work, other members pitch in only when they are asked, and one member shows up on the last day to hand in the paper and receive a grade for work that he or she did not do.

Here, we explain why these group papers are assigned and how to they will aid in your future: both academically and professionally.

Why Are We Writing a Group Paper?

Believe it or not, this group paper will help you prepare for your professional, post-college life. Take a look at your textbooks, your favorite T.V. shows, or any music you listen to — chances are one, if not all, were written by multiple authors. This is an example of professional collaboration. Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, but I don’t plan on being a textbook author, so how will this paper prepare me for my future?” Group papers help tone skills that are important in any workforce, such as teamwork. Whether you choose to work in a field independently or in a team, you will come into contact with co-workers and customers at some point. The skills you learn during your practice in college group writing and collaboration can help you refine important communication skills.

Carnegie Mellon University simplified how these kinds of group projects benefit you as a student.The following lists of skills are important in collaborative writing as students and among workforce employees and, “moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall college success” (Carnegie Mellon University, 2015).

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills.

Group projects can also help students develop skills specific to collaborative efforts, allowing students to…

  •  Tackle more complex problems than they could on their own.
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities.
  • Share diverse perspectives.
  • Pool knowledge and skills.
  • Hold one another (and be held) accountable.
  • Receive social support and encouragement to take risks.
  • Develop new approaches to resolving differences.
  • Establish a shared identity with other group members.
  • Find effective peers to emulate.
  • Develop their own voice and perspectives in relation to peers.

(Carnegie Mellon University, 2015).

Keep in mind, however, that simply being assigned a group project will not mean that these skills will automatically develop. This growth happens when the group is properly prepared and willing to work together. In order to effectively build your group, designate roles and schedules, and form a cohesive paper, see the Group Writing Handout on our Resources for Writers page.

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