Group Work: The Challenge

Completing group assignments is exhausting, frustrating, and just overall quite taxing. In writing group assignments, each and every sentence gets dissected and debated until the consensus is that of approval, but even then so many ideas are lost and skewed along the way. But I think there’s a lot to learn in that process.

A lot of my frustration with group work lies in the fact that I have to explain my thoughts. It’s so difficult to explain to other people what I mean, why I’m thinking it, and why it’s important to write down. But that also forces me to think through my thoughts, which really benefits me. It’s like how if someone’s studying for an exam, they’re supposed to teach the topic to someone else so they realize where their own confusion lies. If I have to explain my thoughts to someone else, I have to provide evidence and a thought process, and in doing so I sometimes realize that I misunderstood or made assumptions about what I was writing about. 

Another issue I face when I’m doing group work is that I get frustrated when I have to take on the leadership role, even if it was by choice. I think I’m a bit of a hypocrite with that because it annoys me when other people don’t contribute to group work, but I can also be controlling, so that’s just my own aggression clashing with other people’s non-aggression. I have tried to be more submissive in working with my peers so they have room for their voice, too. And I guess it’s a good thing that I am capable of taking on the leadership role. I think just finding the balance between contributing enough and allowing other people to have their time to speak is really important. 

My last big issue with group work is that people’s ideas get lost or misunderstood. It’s difficult to work up the courage to share an idea or opinion on what’s being written about, so when someone misunderstands it or disagrees with it, it’s easy to just let it go than to argue for it. Today, I misunderstood what Laura was trying to say when we were working together, but it wasn’t until Kevin explained her thought further that I realized it. So it’s not just my own ideas I’m worried about, but other people’s too. There’s also people who go uncredited for their ideas and contributions to group work, and even more who don’t get to include what they have to say at all. In this, I think I learn to listen more to others, be careful of my own aggression in group work, and I encourage myself to voice my ideas and explain them when I feel misunderstood. And when other students do voice their thoughts, it’s wonderful to actually see how much mine and everyone else’s ideas grow, adapt, and change. We can all learn from each other.

How can we avoid these problems? Personally, I am learning to explain my thoughts better to other people, and I think I’ve gotten better at voicing my opinion without taking over. Everybody needs room to speak, and some people need more room than others. I think it also helps when students are given a chance to reflect on how well their group worked together. However, at the end of the day, we just have to learn to deal with these problems ourselves and grow from them. Working with other people is something we’ll have to do our entire lives and something we will often benefit from. I think the louder people have to learn to take a step back, and the quieter people have to gain more confidence in their ideas and their ability to contribute.

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