Think about an engaged classroom, and you’re likely to imagine a classroom full of colors and talking, with students working together in groups on an exciting project or playing a game. The importance of group activity in school shouldn't be ignored. The most engaged classrooms incorporate group work. Still, group work has advantages and disadvantages in the classroom setting. Disadvantages of group work in the classroom include the necessity of a high degree of planning for group activities on the teacher’s part. Benefits of group work not only include increased engagement, but also a number of other benefits, such as increased comprehension of subject matter.

Disadvantages of Group Work in the Classroom

There are many disadvantages of group work in the classroom, but they’re probably not what you think. One of the major disadvantages of teamwork in school is that it makes planning activities more difficult for the teacher. Teachers must be careful to design group work so that all participants will be engaged. Teachers also have to carefully align group activities to learning objectives and standards. Some learning objectives pair better with group work than others, so teachers should be cognizant of forging project-based learning when it's not the most effective learning strategy for the course objective.

Another aspect of project design in need of careful planning is assessment and feedback. Grading projects and active group work can prove challenging, especially when it comes to fairness in assessing student performance. One way teachers can address this challenge is to create rubrics for their projects and go over the rubric with the class so that expectations are clear.

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For students, one of the disadvantages of teamwork in school is its increased emphasis on group decision-making. Students often experience disagreements in the planning phase of projects, so teachers should help students come to decisions more democratically. Removing excessive choices will also aid teachers in simplifying student planning time. Having students create group work contracts is another way to avoid similar disadvantages of group work in the classroom, such as uneven participation among students.

Benefits of Group Work in the Classroom

Don’t let the disadvantages of teamwork in school stop you from implementing project-based learning. The benefits of group work outweigh the disadvantages. These benefits include increased student ownership of subject matter and the opportunity for struggling students to get help from stronger students without having to ask. In group-work settings, students can reinforce soft skills like planning and communication. They can also learn accountability, problem solving and project management.

For the teacher, projects and group work allow for complex subject matter to be broken up into smaller parts. Project-based learning also creates the opportunity for students of different learning styles to collaborate while still interacting with the material in the way that is most beneficial to them.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.