|flickr photo courtesy of Dunechaser|
I started thinking about writing this particular piece ages ago. I have always been keen to distance myself from group work endeavors, because I have had such a negative experience in my life dealing with group work in general. I have always focused on the negatives: I knew I would be carrying my group mates, I knew I would have to do all the work and all the presenting if I were to receive an "A". I was consistently placed in groups in K-12 training with students that were known underachievers in class. There was no oversight, and just as much support from my teachers. Due to these factors, I grew to detest group work, and I gained (what I would call) a general mistrust of people in general in reference to academic work and amount of effort. It was not until I was recently introduced to an article entitled: "A Lone Wolf's Approach to Group Work," that I really was able to sit and think about what factors might still be keeping me from enjoying group work.
First off, the article made me realize that not all potential group mates are as unwilling to work as I thought. In fact, it might just be that group members are simply uninspired, bored, or really just do not even feel particularly engaged. While I was driven by the extrinsic motivator of getting the "A", I failed to realize that not everyone else felt the same way. The biggest thing that I learned from the article, was that I am capable of being the weak link in the group. My desire to have things done a certain way has the strong potential for creating disinterest and failure. Also of interest, is the fact that teachers and researchers do little to address and study people like me. There was always a focus on assisting those with little cognitive investment in group projects - people the article calls "social loafers."
At heart, I will always have firm confidence in my individual work. I do not see errors as setbacks, but rather as challenges to have me engage further and exert more effort. However, I have been trying to look at group work from a different perspective. Much like how we are expected to be facilitators, not just teachers, I am interested in encouraging effective collaboration. I have been a member of a few great groups in various classes this semester, and when we were able to collaborate effectively, we were able to produce truly wonderful work. It certainly is possible for group work to yield more transformative results than just working alone.
Personally, I will embrace group work when needed, and I will even jump at the chance to work collaboratively with other professionals in my field. However, I will still place a high value on my own abilities and self-confidence. I enjoy individual work, but I think I can also learn to further enjoy collaborative work.