Published Jul 18, 2009
When you're in lab, and you have 4 group members, how do you make the team work? Do you have each person assigned to an individual task (when done they report the results to the others in the group) Or do you have two people perform the tasks, and then the other two watch, observe and record the results?
There seems to be a miscommunication in lab (I've noticed this pattern a lot) where you have one or two people who want to do EVERYTHING (major control freaks), and then get frustrated with the other two people saying we aren't doing enough (sometimes there isn't enough tasks to keep 4 people busy). So, what happens is when we finally do another part of the lab assignment (to speed things up) the other person in the group gets upset because they don't trust our answers because they weren't there to witness anything and undermine our intelligence by questioning if its right.
I've noticed this happening quite a lot and I'm wondering, just what is teamwork and how does everyone make it work for them? I'm really beginning to hate lab.
I too have had many frustrating lab experiences. Unfortunately, both in school and in the workplace, it is unlikely that four people will have the same ability, goals, and styles.
I would suggest keeping an open mind as to why some group members are being 'control freaks.' While not defending their marginalization of their lab partners, I think that it is understandable for them to feel uncomfortable trusting strangers with a portion of their grade - grades that may make or break their admission into programs that mean the world to them.
I have worked with lab partners who were open about the fact that they were thrilled with the 72% that they earned on the last exam - so, as someone who is happy with nothing less than an A, can I reasonably trust them to work at a level that I want my name put on? I have also had experiences where a person seemed quite intelligent and reliable, so we divvied up the workload and then they dropped the ball completely. After these two experiences I became a bit of a control freak myself!
I have learned that communication is crucial in group situations (although that can earn you some labels too!). Instead of breaking the workload into such large chunks that your lab partners start feeling anxious about losing control over a portion of their grade, can you divide the labs up into smaller tasks? Have you tried rotating assignments so that for each lab one person gathers supplies, another documents procedures and results, another performs the experiment, and another cleans up? That way everyone is aware of what is going on, feels secure that things are being done in a way that will result in a good grade, and participates in all aspects of the lab. It will take longer than simply breaking the group into several tasks, but it will enfranchise everyone in the group. Four people is a lot for any of the science labs that I have had, so I think everyone in your group may have to resign themselves to sometimes being the observer.
Suffering in resentful silence is unhealthy and waiting until you can't take it anymore leads to accusatory discussions that can be disasterous. You have to fall back on some tried and true approaches. Have a solution in mind, discuss things in "I feel" terms (I feel like I am not learning as much as I would like in this lab) and sell it -if you are positive and upbeat about a 'great idea' that will make labs easier, you avoid putting people on the defensive and will have a better chance of them buying in.
Good luck! :)
Ms. Nurse Assistant, LPN
Instead of breaking the workload into such large chunks that your lab partners start feeling anxious about losing control over a portion of their grade, can you divide the labs up into smaller tasks? Have you tried rotating assignments so that for each lab one person gathers supplies, another documents procedures and results, another performs the experiment, and another cleans up? That way everyone is aware of what is going on, feels secure that things are being done in a way that will result in a good grade, and participates in all aspects of the lab. It will take longer than simply breaking the group into several tasks, but it will enfranchise everyone in the group. Four people is a lot for any of the science labs that I have had, so I think everyone in your group may have to resign themselves to sometimes being the observer.
I have suggested this, and even volunteered to be the recorder. One of the people in my group got upset, and accused me of not doing enough, that I was just sitting back and writing down all the answers. That's the whole point of lab, is to watch one do the experiment and jot down the results.
Ditto...except for 99% of all group work I've ever had, it's with the people who are so excited to have a C. I end up taking over so I can get an A. No one ever has a problem, and if they want to go on and get more C's on their tests while I maintain A's on mine, then I am happy to be a control freak. Even divvying up work has never been successful for me, because they will ask to "take a look" at my work, and then try to copy exactly what I'm doing. I even had someone ask to look at my part of a group essay and the copy and paste parts of my essay into his part. I went to the teacher who basically said that I would be passing and that guy wouldn't so not to worry, but I was still like, "Seriously? You copied and pasted my work and didn't think I would notice?" People crack me up.
Uggh, I know. My last semester of my first degree I had a senior level econ class that required a group research paper. There were three of us in my group so we split it into three writing portions and then I was going to merge the pieces together and smooth it out. I finally get this one guys portion at 10 pm the night before it is due (and only after much nagging) - every single referece he had was Wikipedia! I was dumbfounded! Who needs peer-reviewed journals when you have wiki!!!
I had another senior research class where we had to put together a group paper and powerpoint - it soon became clear that they had zero interest in doing better than just passing - the phrase "Cs get degrees" was actually used. For that one I was certainly the control freak, I wrote the paper and I put the PowerPoint together, we split the presentation and they earned their Cs and I got my A.
Sometimes in group assignments in school it comes down to looking out for your own best interests, if you do everything you can to handle things maturely and it doesn't work, then you just have to take care of business, finish the class, and trot it out as a battle story in future posts!
Good luck, hopefully this is a summer class and will soon be over.
Oh yeah it's totally obvious during presentations who did their part and who didn't.
My microbiology lab went really well. I signed up for the class with 3 friends I had in previous classes. We worked well together, divided up the work, and made sure that everyone understood the labs and had a part in the work.
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