Academic Group Work: Traditional, Non-Traditional Students
BEA PREECE, Staff Writer
Generally, What do most non-traditional students dislike while back in college? Math? Not. It is when professors say “you will work in groups.”
Non-traditional students have different experiences of working in groups. They come from having spent a number of years in the work environment where group work is a different thing than in the academic environment.
Traditional students are still molding their knowledge. Many hold jobs outside of their academic world and are prepared to carry their load in group work, however, some others do not and they may see group work as a time to relax and let the ones who care about their grades do all the work.
Jeff Bintinger, a traditional student majoring in Liberal Studies, likes working in groups even though he has had negative experiences.
“Generally, there are fewer people who are responsible for the negative experiences in group work, but the work gets done and I have never got a poor grade because someone else did not pull their load,” says Bintinger. “I’ve had nothing but great experiences working with non-traditional students because they know what it takes to get the job done.”
In a conversation with non-traditional student Michelle Giannoulakis, a psychology major, she said, “Many times non-traditional students work in a different way than the traditional students, but this does not always happen,” Michelle says. “Usually non-traditional students seem to take their education more seriously, not to say that our traditional students do not, but it seems that a larger percentage of non-traditional students tend to do just that,” she continues.
On the other hand non-traditional student Sarah Bullock, a Human Services major focusing on sociology, psychology, and communications, does not have a positive experience about working in groups in an academic setting. “Working in small groups is a valuable way to prepare traditional students for the real world. However, it is difficult for me, who spent several years in the workforce and traditional students are aware of my level of responsibility and reliability, so there is a tendency to take advantage.”
One of the issues might be that in the academic setting the professors let the group organically select a leader and the group structure grows the same way. Sometimes groups do not chose leaders and everything breaks lose. These are some of the things that work against the group because there is no internal authority, structure, and organization.
In the majority of corporate organizations group leaders are appointed by upper management or a project manager is heading the group. When creating group assignments, professors should draw from real experiences in real company settings rather than relying on book instruction regarding what a published author says about working in a group, especially when there are such vast differences in professional experience in academic groups.