Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

What Students Wish Teachers Understood About Group Projects

The hidden side of group work
By Linda Babcock — November 09, 2022 1 min read
How can students divide up group projects more fairly?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

How can students divide up group projects more fairly?

One person often gets stuck with thankless tasks—and the problem exists not only in schools but in the workplace. Here’s something I wrote about the topic for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

“How did I get stuck doing this again?” my daughter moaned.

For a group project at school, she once again found herself in the role of “compiler.” You know, the person who takes everyone’s content and threads it together into a compelling narrative.

Compiling is a thankless task, one that is done behind the scenes and takes a tremendous amount of time yet is rarely rewarded. Sometimes a teacher knows who contributed each section of content but almost never asks who handled this administrative role.

This problem goes beyond school. The workplace equivalent is the nonpromotable task—resolving conflicts, sitting on organizational governance committees, taking meeting notes for team projects.

Research shows that there is significant inequity in who performs these types of tasks, and often, the same people keep doing them over and over again. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that women, more often than men, fall into this category. The downside goes beyond lack of recognition for the work. When the same people shoulder thankless tasks, it can lead to bruised feelings and create hesitancy about collaborating with others.

But life is essentially a group project, so how do you better manage these tasks? To start, you can make sure everyone recognizes the problem, then enlist your teammates to divide and conquer in an equitable way.

Don’t feel resigned to taking on thankless tasks by yourself.

Do help young people learn simple techniques to split thankless tasks up more fairly. If it’s a repeated responsibility, taking turns is a good option. If it is a one-time chore, suggest ways to divvy it up. For example, compiling a group report can be divided into the following tasks: putting the sections together, making the report visually appealing, polishing the graphics, putting together references and footnotes, and threading the story together. As the saying goes, many hands make light work.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion What Students Say They Like About Their Teachers
Supporting students in a way that works best for how they learn is more art than science; being understanding is a good place to start.
8 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Teaching 4 Ways Districts Make 'Acceleration' Work
Providing support for students to tackle grade-level work requires time and planning, administrators say.
4 min read
EL teacher Katina Tibbetts teaches her 5th grade level Wit and Wisdom course at East Veterans Memorial Elementary in Gloucester, Mass., on Sept. 20, 2023.
EL teacher Katina Tibbetts leads her 5th graders in a lesson at East Veterans Memorial Elementary in Gloucester, Mass., on Sept. 20, 2023.
Libby O'Neill for Education Week
Teaching Opinion The 4 Ways Teaching Is Like Yoga
My newfound yoga hobby gave me a few epiphanies I can take from the mat to the classroom, writes one high school teacher.
Allison Kilgore Thompson
3 min read
Image of three yoga positions silhouetted in pleasing tones with swirls of texture applied
Teaching Opinion What Does Successful Differentiated Instruction Look Like in the Classroom?
Many teachers struggle to adapt lessons, believing they lack resources, planning time, and classroom-management support. They don't need to.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."