Does group work in college prepare you for the real world?

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Jennifer Brown
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As college students we hear about the importance of group work. In fact, group work is emphasized considerably throughout many courses. Many, if not, all of my undergraduate courses have had some element of working with a team, being a leader, or presenting with a group. With the added online components of coursework, as a student I have had the experience of working in a group in both the traditional and non-traditional way. With our academic and professional emphasis on group work, perhaps a good question to ask is, does group work in college relate to the “real world?"

Learning together

In collegiate programs, group work has been used for learning certain topics, discussing ideas, and performing certain skills. Depending on your career field, group work in a work environment can be similar. For instance, companies may require monthly staff meetings, just as college courses require student participation in presentations and forums. When I was a certified nursing assistant I often went through training in group formats to learn new skills, such as how to safely transfer patients from a regular bed to a specialty bed.

Getting the job done

Unlike the academic focus of college, group work in the workforce tends to focus on a particular cause or need. That is, collegiate group work primarily focuses on teaching you something, whereas workplace group work focuses on getting a job done. In college, you are being taught information and learning it, while in the work environment, you are expected to already have some skills and knowledge.

In reality though, almost all group work can be considered opportunities for learning. Group work in college is formatted to fit the college student’s coursework curriculum, thus providing a unique experience for critical thinking and consolidation of ideas in a group format. It comes as no surprise then, that group work leads students to develop teamwork as a result of learning in these formats. In essence, whether you are taking college courses or are in the job market, group work remains important, its main purpose has just shifted.


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