LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Student group projects are indispensable for education

Via UnSplash

As a student in Media Studies at SIUE, I feel compelled to respond to the recent op-ed “Teachers: thoughtless group projects need to stop.” In the strange and alienating age of COVID-19, we need group projects more than ever.

Group projects facilitate cognitive development, provide social interactions, build teamwork and foster a sense of responsibility and accountability to students. Group projects enhance speed and efficiency to accomplish tasks and improve communication skills.

Cognitive development

The essence of education is to improve cognitive ability. Participating in group projects builds students’ mental capabilities to engage in critical thinking by coming up with ideas for an assigned task. Students broaden their intellectual capacity through sharing of ideas and experience.

Social Interaction

Social interactions influence every aspect of the students’ lives. Students can get to know and have empathy for different cultures and beliefs. According to a 2018 study in the Annual Review of Psychology, social relationships are adaptive and crucial for survival. And, a 2020 study from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted social interactions, causing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, mental disorder and many other health issues.

Therefore, engaging in group projects, especially post-pandemic, can help students re-establish communal relationships. The complaint that the group project enables free riders is not enough reason to stop doing group projects, considering its contribution to the wellness of students. And a good teacher can address students who loaf while other students work.

Enhance speed and efficiency

It is fascinating to see the outcome of a collaborative effort. In group projects, members share responsibilities to meet deadlines to achieve targeted goals on the assigned task.

Although delays may occur in reaching consensus due to personal responsibility and opinion, that should not affect deadlines. True, members in a group may end up receiving equal grades, as stated in your original staff editorial. Nevertheless, dedicated students can always prove themselves, and more importantly they continue to enjoy the knowledge they have gained.

Communication skills

The group project is one of the best ways to build communication skills. Learning to communicate better has helped me as a media student — and in the workplace.

My experience in the media industry developed my ability to speak, inform, educate, enlighten and contribute positively to the development of society. Group projects help students to build confidence; students meet, discuss and share ideas.

Sense of responsibility and accountability

Students feel more engaged when assigned to work in a group. I was able to interview some SIUE students and SIU students on their opinions on both group and individual projects, and the responses overwhelmingly support keeping group projects as one option.

Teamwork spirit

In a group project, each student has something to offer. In this environment, they learn to handle disputes, make connections and learn how to agree or disagree with others. The most effective teachers step back to allow students the freedom to cooperate and organize themselves towards a particular task.

In conclusion, the group project remains indispensable, and teachers should keep the ball rolling.

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