Jessica's Blog

Reflections On This Semester

This has been one of the most trying semesters I’ve ever had. I believe the main reason is due to the reliance on group activity. The fact that three out of four of my classes relayed on groups to complete assignments that were worth a heavy portion of my final grade was a real challenge.  In all but one of my classes the group project experience was horrid. However, I can easily say that all the groups were a collective learning experience for me.  I learned that group-work allows for more impute on a given ideal; this means there is potential for a better overall product.  I learned that group-work means more eyes to better spot potential problems. I learned that group-work means there are more minds to improve the quality of work. However, in all but my Professional Writing class the group project was a failure. I believe the main reason for my Professional Writing group’s success was that it had two individuals who understood the business world very well. They have their head’s well put together and understand what it takes for a group project to succeed.

Why did the other group projects fail? I feel the main reason was inexperience in dealing with group work. College group-work isn’t anything like high school group-work. College group-work means that the group plans and organizes itself with little to no input from the professor or teacher. Group members must learn how to work with one-another and find a common-ground when it comes to the expectations that should be met by each group member. Working in groups must be taught in college because you will have to do it in the real world, in the world beyond academia. Therefore, it is good to be exposed to these irritations.  So, here are some of the problems and lessons I learned written out so that I may reflect upon them.  I hope that others can read this and take away some knowledge to make their own group-work experiences more productive.  At the very least I hope that if someone is struggling with their own college group-work experience that my words help to give them peace of mind. You are not alone!

Problem one, group members have to agree on what needs to get done. Things got to get done on time; the professor doesn’t care that your group can’t agree on a time to meet on outside of class. That’s your problem. I learned that a shared vision is required to unify ideas. As long as a vision is shared things flow more smoothly within the group. Not having a shared vision brings the project to a stand-still; unless individuals bring it upon themselves to make their own vision happen. This is what occurred in my Language and Culture class. All three of us were so excited over the topic we would be researching together but our vision never really united.  The group project’s failure happened because we didn’t give ourselves enough time to work on the project outside of class as a group. Our schedules were set—our periods of free time did not meet up—leaving us little time to devote for meeting-up.  Now we each have a separate version of the project; these versions must somehow be united for our presentation in happens in about a week!

Problem number two, college group projects are hard because the group is being graded. Expectations influence the group’s mentality. People have their expectations of what is expected. This means it’s easy to step on other people’s feelings. If someone doesn’t feel that you’re living up to his expectations then your grade can suffer. In my Environmental Anthropology class we were asked to grade out group members—to gauge their performance out of 50 points. There were five areas to grade on and 10 points for each area. The grading is supposed to make sure everyone is doing their fair share of the group-work but in practice what one person sees as taking on her fair share another will see her performance as not good enough. While the grading does make participation in class work more abundant (not many people skip this class for fear of their group member’s wrath), I feel that my grade in the class would be higher if the evaluation of my performance was coming from the professor and not my group members. This is mainly because my group member’s expectations may be a lot higher than the expectations of my professor. I have the potential to impact the grade of each of my group members and therefore I can understand if they are far more willing to cut me down if they feel I’ve not done enough.

Though I may not be able to control the schedule of my other group members or deal with their level of expectation of me. I have learned that I should try to only devote one class a semester to group work. That way I can better deal with the time constraints (other’s as well as my own) that are a part of the group-work experience. I don’t know if group projects will be easier in the future. I hope I can take the positive group experiences I learned in my Business English class and apply this knowledge to future endeavors. I know that I’m still uncomfortable asking for help from my classmates; currently I need to find the courage to ask just one fellow member of my Business English class to write a letter of recommendation for me. I don’t know why but the idea of asking frightens me. I don’t think it has anything to do with being afraid of being told no. I feel it may have more to do with the idea of being judged; or maybe it’s the fact that the person who I ask will not take it seriously. I have a fear of being judged. I like to be seen as smart and as a worthwhile person to get to know. I remember an instance in my Environmental Anthropology class were I called myself retarded. I said it jokingly. I’ve said it hundreds of times in the past to my closest friends and it doesn’t even faze them. It’s not that they think I’m retarded, or even slow. I guess it’s easy to forget that words have connotations and that different groups value those connotations differently. When I’ve said this to my friends they see the word as meaning that I did something ridiculous and silly. When I said it to my fellow group members, they jumped all over me; saying that it was inappropriate that I should call myself this. They saw the word as negative; that I was calling myself dumb. I became so embarrassed that I really didn’t talk for the rest of the class period. I think it even made me self-conscious of my actions for the rest of the day! I’m sensitive. I’m easily affected by other’s actions. I will probably never be totally comfortable working in groups in a classroom setting as it will require me to get over my sensitive nature. However, I become less sensitive the better I get to know a person’s mannerisms and attitude. I feel that working in a group with people I know is not a problem for me. I spent four years in a high school band. I spent three years working in small steel drum bands; most of the time, I worked with the same people. For me, three-fourths of the challenge when doing group work is simply understanding how to interact with everyone else.


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