Why students have a preference when it comes to working alone vs working in groups

Fatima Al-Sammak, Editor-in-Chief

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Imagine a scenario where a classroom of nearly 30 students are listening to a teacher lecture. The teacher moves on to talk about the assignment that will implement what the students had learned. The students find out that it will be a group project where they need to create a poster. Half the students cheer while the other half groans. These reactions are typical in everyday settings. Throughout high school, students will be presented with opportunities to work, research and study in different ways. Independent study, group work and working online are just a few of those ways. Students will be assigned certain tasks such as building an object in a group, writing an essay alone or conducting research in pairs. Whatever the assignments may be, some students have shown a clear preference between group and solo work.

Ranya Aribi, a senior at Lincoln Northeast High School, said she did not mind either and did not have an overall preference. She goes on to explain, “I think I prefer working with people when we’re required to do group projects, but for basic assignments, I prefer working alone unless I need help.” For people without a preference, it is easier for them to adjust to what the teacher requires. Whether she would be required to work in groups or alone, Ranya said that, “I would just do it, because it’s not that big of a deal and you have to learn to deal with things you may not like doing.”

For sophomore Sidney Yant, she had a clear preference for working alone. She says, “I feel like I can focus better and get work done instead of having other people distract me.” When asked how she would deal with being made to work in groups, she explained that, “Whenever we work in a group we usually split up the work so it’s like we’re working alone because we’re each doing a portion of the project by ourselves.” And this seems to be the tactic of many students who prefer working alone but may be required to work in groups for certain classes.

Another senior, Aaron Reyes, said that his preference all depended on what he need to do. He says, “If I’m doing something like a PowerPoint then I can easily do that myself without someone directing me. But working on something big, as a musician, I can’t do everything I want to alone, so it helps to work together. All of my core classes, like history, require me to work alone, but in music classes, I have to work with others to accomplish what I need to.” When asked what he would do if he was forced to work in a group for a class, he preferred working alone in and vice versa, Aaron answered, “I just grit my teeth and deal with it because I’m not completely against working in a team, it’s just sometimes easier to do it when working alone.”

The idea of it being easier to work alone comes from students thinking it is easier to not have so many conflicting ideas from different students, and instead just going with the one idea the student thinks up of him/herself. This way the task gets done quicker, and there is no need to have to waste time explaining the concept to others and making sure everyone in the group agrees on the plan. This saves time and keeps conflict from arising.

In the eyes of many teachers, though, working in groups is essential. According to Ms. Seiboldt, a math teacher at Northeast, “everyone needs to learn the skills of being a good group member because of the future workforce.” Being equipped with skills such as knowing how to communicate with others and compromising can come in handy for the future when students take on the world through jobs that require them to work in both groups and alone. This way, no matter what task is thrown at them, they will be able to handle it. When asked for her personal teaching preference, Ms. Seiboldt answered, “It all depends on the class, unit and time more so than what I prefer doing all the time, and also what skills I am looking at.”

Most teachers believe there should just be a nice balance between the two, even when it seems like their students seem to prefer one way over the other. When asked how they handle ensuring that all their students participate in class activities whether they are required to be in groups or alone, Mr. Chapman, and English teacher at LNE, answered, “You just have to push them towards the thing they are uncomfortable with and encourage them to become more comfortable with it, because they will be in a job where they are interacting and collaborating with other people.”

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