Stop, Collaborate and Listen (seriously I couldn’t resist)

Here’s a little low-quality Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice for you to get you in the collaborating mood, because that’s where I am.

Apparently at this time in my college career, it is group work time. We all know how business school students always have group projects or science majors have lab partners, but we don’t often think of english majors being a collaborative kind of thing. Turns out it is.

In this class, English 229, we are creating a business proposal, pitch and plan that we will carry out the change something at The University of Michigan (scary….) In my Writing 300 class, in which I am learning how to be a peer tutor, the entire class (all 20 of us) are creating a website together for a conference we are putting on. In my English 449 class, the study of medieval drama, a group of us will be performing a play together. Hello, Gmail inbox, get ready to explode.

The Kolin reading was interesting and certainly applicable rules and advice for working in groups. However, I think what really needs to be discussed is how students work in groups, because it’s not the same as adults.

Firstly, we all have at least 3-4 other classes, often job and extra curricular activities at the university. Secondly, group projects expand the amount of time spent on a project by 5. Not to say that it isn’t important to work in groups or that these exercises don’t teach us anything. But it is to say that, we aren’t doing it your way.

We e-mail back and forth, spitting out thoughts at random trying to piece them together. In Writing 300 we created a Facebook page, resulting in millions of posts that don’t resolve a single issue but are certainly funny.

Similarly, appointing roles I find to be one of the most difficult because no one likes to act like a big shot/expert so no one will say what they are good at or what they want to do. Furthermore, no one even appoints a leader, often there’s an awkward pause where nothing gets done and the biggest worry wart in the group just get it and takes over while other students who don’t care or are too afraid went home.

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One thought on “Stop, Collaborate and Listen (seriously I couldn’t resist)

  1. Hannah, I just had to chime in.

    So… I think I would qualify as one of those so-called “adults” who does collaborative work “out in the real world.” I think. I think this because I’ve been a teacher, so I’ve shared teaching ideas with groups of my colleagues and collaborated to develop curricula for high school courses. I think this because I’ve done things like write papers with people for publication, and in the most harrowing collaboration of my young career, I even authored an ebook once.

    And I gotta tell you, there are a few things you said above that look EXACTLY like how “adults do it in the real world.” Which is to say… this process doesn’t get any nicer or neater. It just feels more official…

    (1) we all have at least 3-4 other classes, often job and extra curricular activities at the university.

    …I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a group where my collaborators didn’t have 3-4 (-8-10) other projects active at the moment, along with a job (teaching, usually) and extra curricular activities (for me, running).

    (2) Secondly, group projects expand the amount of time spent on a project by 5.

    …I know, right?! Working in groups always takes about ten times more time than it would take you to do the same work. What I usually find, though, is that the work is about ten times stronger (or at least a bit stronger) because many heads were put together.

    (3) We e-mail back and forth, spitting out thoughts at random trying to piece them together.

    …most of my collaborations feel this way, especially in the early stages. Sometimes in the late stages. It’s when they’re like this in the late stages that you’re really in trouble. It’s why concrete and written-down goals are SO important.

    (4) appointing roles I find to be one of the most difficult because no one likes to act like a big shot/expert so no one will say what they are good at or what they want to do. Furthermore, no one even appoints a leader, often there’s an awkward pause where nothing gets done and the biggest worry wart in the group just get it and takes over while other students who don’t care or are too afraid went home.

    …okay, admittedly this gets easier in the “real world” because there’s usually someone who’s “superior” to the others on the team… but not always. And there are often times when some of my team meetings are filled with awkward silences. And often, the most driven, busiest person winds up carrying the brunt of the load — UNLESS the group is mutually invested and the leadership makes a point to divide up tasks and hold people to their promises, in which case these incidents are rare ones.

    Anyway, that’s all to say that you ARE doing it “our way” to some extent. And you’re learning a lot about working in teams (I hope) in the process. It likely feels disingenuous sometimes, esp. since you’re doing it for a class, but teamwork always has its difficulties, even out here in my adult real world.

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