Sunday, March 21, 2010


It spells disaster.

Flaring anger, growing contempt and straining friendships. These are what you have to deal with working in groups.

We have so many group assignments this semester that we often get our own teams mixed up (despite most of us usually stick with the same cycle of classmates). After a series of back-to-back group assignments, I've come to the conclusion that this way of learning is the hardest and the most testing.

First of all, let me give you an advice: unless you don't really care about each other, avoid forming groups with friends. From my observation (and experience), working with friends can be so much harder than working with complete strangers. Don't be fooled into thinking that you can work better with people you like. Honestly, you might not like them very much after a stint together.

The reason for this is simple: friends get offended more easily. This situation is worse for girls, especially the ones that tend to take everything personally. Girls are sensitive creatures, aren't they? And quite a diverse species too. A single comment can elicit very different reactions from them. Consider this exchange:

#1: [to #2 and #3] This is not done correctly. You should include the [bla bla bla] and not just the answers.

#2: Oh I'm sorry. I really didn't know. Can I correct that now? [tries to rectify the mistake]

#3: What do you mean it's wrong?? You are the one who gave the answers! I copied that exactly from your book. Besides, there are too many to be adjusted, it's too late. Biar lah. [storms off]

Sounds familiar? This kind of situation is very common in any group. Some people just don't care. The painful thing about them is that they will bring the entire team down with their 'I'm not doing that' attitude. And so the burden lies with the people who do care. There will always be at least one person in a group that has to finish up the slackers' incomplete work, and you can't expect those unfortunate souls to be graceful about it. And to think that their effort will benefit the very people ruining the group...

Conflicting opinions on how things should be done is inevitable, and it can lead to some very disastrous disputes. Everyone reckons theirs is the best, but not all can have their way. The more frank ones have no trouble airing their disagreement and are generally open to explanatory arguments, while the rest either quietly accept the situation, or don't, but never say a word and become resentful for the rest of the days. This pent-up contempt is dangerous, filling a person with poisonous thoughts, threatening to explode any minute by a simple trigger.

Oh yes, group work is hard work. Especially with friends (or worse, housemates!). Compatibility - or if there is none, tolerance - is crucial in ensuring the success of a group (or at least in making sure the members don't kill each other). It's astonishing what a few team members can do to the group (not to mention your sanity), so choose them wisely. If you don't have that privilege, or you get chosen instead, be strong.

Someone once said "don't be a lone ranger, especially in studying". I agree with that, and I admit I learnt a lot through these group assignments: how to repeat the same explanation for the 20th time with minimum hint of annoyance, how to ask someone to get back to work without saying "shut the darn game off!", how not to glare at people when asked "are you upset?", how to deal with flying accusations when something goes wrong, how to forgive and forget (forgiving is easy, forgetting is not), and a bunch of other life skills.

Love it or hate it, group work is an integral part in the existence of students. Looks like we just have to live with it.

Well, enough ramblings. I have to bark at people now.

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