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Group Project

Monday, May. 2, 2011

Kyle, Mia, Raymond, and Jasmine have been friends since they started college as communication majors three years ago. This semester, they're all taking the quantitative research methods class, which requires a group project instead of a final exam. The four of them decide to work together on the project, which includes designing and carrying out a survey, and writing a report on their findings.

Problems crop up pretty quickly. Mia is also taking a TV production class at the same time, which is enormously time consuming. She misses the meeting where the group finalizes the wording of the survey and divvies up the responsibilities for administering it. When she learns what her group has assigned her, she tells them right away that there's no way she can complete so many surveys by the deadline because of all the work she has for TV production. Instead, she offers to take on more of the writing when the time comes to do the report.

Although the others aren't thrilled with this arrangement, they cover part of her assigned surveys so that they can stay on schedule. Mia makes good on her promise to do extra writing for the final report, but she's really pressed for time, and the rest of the team is very unhappy with the quality of her work. Should they hand the report in as is or rewrite it? If they rewrite it, should they tell the professor that Mia did not do her share?

Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.  Comments must be posted by May 8, 2011, at midnight.

Here are some resources:

Group Project Tips for College Students

Ethics of Team Work

Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Photo by hackNY available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

Comments Comments

Deepti Shenoy said on May 3, 2011
Mia's acting like a spoiled child, expecting her friends to pick up for her. It isn't fair to Kyle, Jasmine, and Raymond to suddenly have to do her part. While I understand she's busy with her TV production class, she should have dropped this one if she wasn't able to handle the workload. Her friends have lives too, and it's unfair to expect them to put aside their responsibilities and do her work. Mia hasn't even tried to work things out with her professor. If she absolutely had to take on both classes during this term, she might have been able to do an independent project. That way she could have avoided inconveniencing her friends and putting their grades at risk. Her friends are really in a tough spot. I sympathize. If they tell the professor about Mia's lack of effort, she'll probably end up doing poorly in the class, which would also mark the end of their friendship with her. If they don't talk to the professor, I would at least suggest that for Mia's own sake, they make their feelings really clear to her. She needs to learn that she can't just take people for granted. Meanwhile, I would recommend they rewrite the report, and insist that Mia contribute more this time around. - Like - 2 people like this.
Cameron Tow said on May 4, 2011
Friends are friends for a reason. They support and help each other out. If Kyle, Jasmine, Raymond, and Mia really are good friends, the other three should not put up a fuss if one needs a little help. After all, what does it really cost them? A little extra time and effort maybe, but I'm sure Mia would and will do the same for them in the future. Some people might argue that Mia should drop the class or should not have taken it in the first place, but that can't always be the solution to a workload problem. Sometimes classes simply have to be taken. Besides, dropping a class in the middle of the term is an enormous waste of the time and energy previously spent on the course, not to mention tuition money wasted on a less than full-term schedule. Anyway, Mia probably can't drop the class without getting an F. The conflict only emerged during the final, which is generally past the drop deadline. It seems immature and petty of Mia's friends to tattle on her to the teacher. This would ruin her grade in the class and probably their friendship, too. They should suck it up, re-write the report to their satisfaction, and turn it in. What goes around comes around. If Mia's friends help her out now, it will strengthen their relationship. The next time one of them is in need, Mia will be there to help out. I'm sure they would prefer that to destroying the friendship by spitefulness over an almost meaningless issue. - Like
Miriam Schulman said on May 5, 2011
When I was in college in the '70s (so now you know) there was no such thing as a group project. In my kids' high school college experiences, group projects were frequent and almost always hellish. Leave aside the difficulty of finding a meeting time for a swimmer with 5 a.m. practices and a theater student with midnight tech rehearsals, group projects usually seem to involve at least one student who--for whatever reason--does not do his or her share of the work. I can't agree with Cameron that it is the responsibility of friends to cover for someone who is slacking. In my view, it's actually a form of cheating to benefit from work you did not do. I know it goes against the student version of the police's "blue wall of silence" to tell on their friends in these situations. But maybe the group should submit two versions of the final reportthe one Mia did and the rewrite. That way, Mia can be graded based on the work she was ready to hand in and the rest of the group can be evaluated based on the extra work they were willing to do. I really wish teachers would consider whether it is ethical to assign projects where everyone in the group hands in the same material and receives the same grade. This seems like asking for abuse. - Like - 1 person likes this.
David DeCosse said on May 6, 2011
Of course, frustrating stories abound about slackers like Mia who bring down the rest of a hard-working group in a collective college assignment. But, still, I think these projects are invaluable. At bottom, they stretch us in two ways. One is that they tweak us to realize that the successful exercise of our individual responsibility depends on others. And this is the case not only in the course of a frustrating college group project but also in life more generally. How could we accomplish anything individually without family, friends, co-workers, and more? In our individualistic American culture, we're always more dependent on others than we think  and than we'd probably like to admit. The other way these group projects help is to challenge us responsibly to manage others for the sake of the group. There's a paradox here. At bottom, we are not finally responsible for others. Accordingly, Mia let the group down and should receive a lower mark than the rest of the team. But, at the same time, we are collectively responsible for what the groups do to which we belong. Thus those in the group other than Mia have a responsibility for managing her  for sizing up her work and for adjusting to her poor performance. Insofar as they failed to manage her, they should also receive a lower mark than they otherwise would  though a higher mark than Mia. It's hard but true. We are responsible for ourselves and for the groups to which we belong. - Like
Jessica Zigterman said on May 8, 2011
This exact scenario actually happened to me last quarter, when my research methods class required a quarter-long group project that constituted the majority of our grade. From our group of 4, two of us dedicated time to the actual research, writing of the survey, analyzing the results, and writing analysis. While the other two group members passed out the survey to maybe 30 people, I personally gave the survey to over 80 people and went out of my comfort zone to do so, approaching professors outside of my major. The quality of work of my group members was weak and I spent more time correcting their work than it would have taken me to do the work in the first place. This situation is never ideal and everyone dreads group projects where there is no individual component. The ideal group project would combine both group and individual assessment so that every group members is motivated to contribute substantially to the final product. Of course everyone has outside commitments that can get in the way of finishing the work we were supposed to do, but you always have to remember that if it weren't a group project, you would have no one to fall back on in those situations and would have had to do the work anyways. For those of us who carry the weight for the other group members, just remember that if it weren't for you, not only you, but also the whole group would have received a poor grade. Carrying extra weight sometimes and letting other people carry your weight sometimes is just a reality of any work environment. We think that this situation is limited to college classes, but in reality, it happens everyday in the professional world. We go through these tough learning experiences while we are in college so that we can have better ideas for how to approach the problem in future situations where the stakes are higher than just a poor grade. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Kati said on May 9, 2011
At this point, Mia is trying to get things done, but is obviously strained. I would definitely edit her work and if the professor asks group members to review each other, then I'd be honest. However, despite how peeved I would be at her relative irresponsibility, I wouldn't turn her in as a slacker. She obviously is TRYING and isn't just twiddling her thumbs. I would let her know that she needs to be better prepared for future classes/projects. - Like - 1 person likes this.
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Tags: academic integrity, group project