Two problems with one project

Recently, a York University student requested to not work with women on a group school project. This request was based on the students’ strict religious beliefs. I take two issues from this exercise in delicate manoeuvring – both on the part of the student and the administration of York.

I’ll get this out of the way – I don’t care if you want to work only with guys, women, characters from Avatar, etc. I think that is what freedom allows you to do. And if that is truly the case here, the student should not have picked a post-secondary institution that is close to 70% women in population. He most likely should have gone to an all-male school, in an all-male country – that of course being The Vatican. Although I get the feeling the student would have had other issues. Just guessing.

A lot of people have and will write on this topic – whether it be religious expression or a misogyny adventure.

My other issue – and one that is becoming a big issue – is of course Group Projects.

Can we, now, start the process of eliminating 90% of all group projects in schools. Please.

Firstly, I’ll ask as a parent. Watching your kids struggle with groups projects is painful. Knowing that not everyone contributes equally, knowing that a group of four or five will have the lions share of the work done by two. Trying as you can as a parent to quell stress and calm fears. Hoping that there will be some sort of benefit to this exercise – but there isn’t.

Secondly, I’ll ask as a professional in an industry that hires individuals. Schools, stop allowing teachers to assign group projects. I understand that it’s far easier to mark six assignments than 30. I get it. But as a person that sees the portfolio of potential employees I am encountering far too many group projects. In some portfolios it’s been over 50% of the work been presented. How can I evaluate the potential skill and ideation of someone if their work is clustered in with masses?

Lastly, as a former college instructor, I hated the thought of giving out a group assignment. And therefore I didn’t. Here’s why from a teaching standpoint group projects suck. All of those students will leave and go searching for employment (or maybe graduate school) as individuals. At no point will that part of the journey be in groups. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the thought of a group project. Getting people to understand how to interact in a group dynamic, to get along – not kill someone. Yep, I see it. Cause more often than not you’ll be working in an office – not alone – with other carbon-based lifeforms.

But, in the real-world, you tend to work with people that have different skill-sets. Designers work with writers, account people work with media buyers. Teams are people that play different positions – if you had a hockey team of all goalies – well, you can imagine how that would not work out at all.

If colleges and universities truly want to expand the experience of group projects and make it remotely applicable – then the groups need be made up of students from different disciplines. But that would require a group effort from the administration – which seems to be the stumbling block. Ironic.

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Agenda? What agenda?

Everything we do has some sort of finish, some end game that we are striving to achieve. Regardless of the vocation or activity.

Whether working out, eating better, attending workplace conferences or doing projects. There is a destination.

The problem with projects that involve many people is making sure that everyone is good in knowing the destination. The end game. What is the ultimate goal? Better sales, more visibility, higher profits, better skilled team – whatever. And if members are not clear on the result – or have a eye on a different prize (an individual end game per se) – the finish line might be tougher to get to than originally thought.

We all have to make decisions about paths we take for many different endeavours – family, work, finance, sports, etc. But we need to make those choices that we feel best serve the end game (collectively or as an individual). It’s when we make those choices without really thinking about the impact on the end game that can trip us up. Short-term gain kind of stuff.

So – first and foremost – we need to have destinations. And then we need to pick our path accordingly. Will it be straight and correct all the time? Hell no. But it’s the re-adjustment to set the route back on track that makes us better.

Here’s to aiming at the target we want.