from The Design Observer
Group assignments have always been stressful. I felt absolutely fortunate with my group for this project, but such a circumstance, in my experience, is the exception rather than the rule.
We’ve grown up in school systems—elementary through high—that stress collaborative assignments, and (most) of us are thoroughly familiar with suffering first-hand that dreaded “one person did all the work, and yes, it was me” project. We wait with anxiety when group members are assigned—how do you handle members who simply do not care?
Few things will motivate these members for a short span, and seemingly nothing will permanently persuade them to buckle down and contribute. Any repercussions wait at the project’s conclusion—too late!—after they’ve subjected their more conscientious group members to long nights of overwhelming workloads. Some students have seemingly made it this far devoid of any sense of group responsibility. There is little chance that a group project will miraculously awaken such a virtue, but a guarantee that these students will unnecessarily exasperate fellow group members. And the solution—one that does not need to be ‘learned’ over and over again—for these overburdened group members is invariably the same: grab some coffee and take up the slack.
I often wonder whether there is more merit in allowing students to choose their groups. I think we naturally learn more (and is this not the goal?) when we work with people we know we can depend on. I disagree with the argument that students, given the opportunity, will choose to work with friends who share their own views, that everyone’s views will go unchallenged, and that no learning will occur; I know for a fact that my hardest critics are my closest friends.
Summarily, I feel that the design major is not the place to ‘learn about working in a randomly assigned group’—we’ve been doing this since elementary school, and collaborative design in this respect is not so different at all. We’re here to learn design, and we do that best working with dependable peers.