Group Work: What’s it like here at APU?
We’re back into the swing of classes, with occasional piling assignments, rapid clicking of respon codes , and “please turn off your mic” requests wafting graciously in the air again. With more classes having hybrid and on-campus options, it’s safe to say that things are slowly returning back to normal-ish.
What do normal classes look like here at APU though? They all have one thing in common—group work! This is something students either really love or painfully dread, with the latter sometimes taking the vote. A lot of the students here come from different countries all over the world, with even more complex and unique personalities. In order to foster the benefits of a true collaborative, multicultural environment, we have a lot of group work activities that make it easier to break the ice and learn more from others and their respective countries.
Some of you may be curious as to how students feel about this, so I interviewed some of my friends to get their opinions on what the group work culture is like here at APU.
1. What are the pros and cons of group work?
Tanzeem Nawar (APM, Bangladesh, 2nd year): Meeting new people and making friends, networking basically. Through this, you are able to expand your perspective and gain new knowledge about your group members, their countries, and the assignment topic in general. Subsequently, this creates a space of appreciation and acceptance where everyone’s individual, unique traits can mix together to make exciting things happen.
For the cons, sometimes it can feel like your opinions are not being heard, especially if you’re a shy person by nature and you’re in a group with dominating members. Having a diverse set of group members becomes less fun when you can’t come to an agreement; when everyone’s perspectives are different, sometimes the idea of compromise goes right out the window.
Hiromi Koyama (APS, Japan/Korea, 2nd year): The best part of group work for me would be listening to other people’s opinions. This essentially challenges your views, which in my opinion allows you to widen your perspective and understand how others think and see the world.
Some cons are the reality of not being able to choose your own group members or the number of people you wish to have in a team. I say this because free-riding can be a problem when working with other students you may not know.
Owissa Esther (APS, Indonesia, 3rd year): You can learn a lot of soft skills, such as time management, public speaking, and finding common ground. A big pro would also be meeting more people and making new friends! Most groups are quite diverse with no repetition of students from the same country, so you will always get the chance to meet someone new. Lastly, being in a group allows you to benefit from division of labor. After all, "If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
I think that a con is definitely the possibility of free-riders; in some of my previous groups, there was one person that never showed up and didn’t contribute in breakout rooms. This can cause discord within the group.
2. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear there’s going to be group work in a class?
Tanzeem: The first thing that comes to mind? This honestly depends on the class. For example, in a class like Environmental Science, I’d be like, “Oh no, not again!” But for Corporate Finance, it would be more like, “Oh thank goodness! I couldn’t have done this alone!”
Hiromi: The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions group work in a class is, "Ugh! Not again..." I would like to say that I've dealt a good amount of time dealing with passive team members who only do surface level work and barely participate actively in discussions. As a teaching assistant here at APU, I've noticed a pattern that students do not discuss actively on Zoom unless an authoritative figure comes into the room.
Owissa: “Please, please, I hope I get a functional group!” would probably be it. I usually know beforehand if a class will have group work from checking the syllabus, so I’m rarely surprised if the concept of group work is announced. If it’s a student-select group, I usually aim to be in groups with students I know in terms of their work ethic. If not, I simply just pray for the best.
3. Group work is such a big part of an APU Education. What would you say is something that helps you thrive in whatever group you end up in?
Tanzeem: I’ve been blessed with good group members so far for most of my group work, aside from one. I’d say my relationship with my group members really helps me thrive. I feel like I’m a friendly and approachable person, and I’m always willing to compromise, work hard, and help my fellow group members. People usually see that and help me with my work as well. We help each other out, and the environment is very harmonious. We also look out for each other during peer evaluation, so that really helps me get through the group work.
Hiromi: The only thing that gets me going is that there is usually at least one member—excluding myself—that wants to achieve higher than the average grade. I also try to convince myself that this is training for the real world, as I'm sure there will always be couch potatoes in any group, be it within professional or camaraderie-like settings.
Owissa: The first thing that helps me get through it would definitely be luck. In most of my past experiences, it’s usually just one out of four group members that are the bad eggs. An attitude I like to have is ‘no mercy’, which usually consists of me not excusing their behavior and reporting to the professor or TA if necessary.
As you can tell, group work at APU can definitely be an adventure. Despite the occasional issue of free-riders and dominating personalities, it’s safe to say that each group work experience does indeed teach you something new and can help you connect with people during these stressful times. To the future or current students reading this, I wish you luck in whatever group you find yourself a part of in the future!
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