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Megan Stager 300192519 Sociology 121-1 09/02/2013 Working on a Team: Latent Function, Or Dysfunction? I am, by nature, an introvert.

This is not to say I cannot give a presentation or participate in a discussion, but what it does mean is that I enjoy the company of one person at a time, I feel that my work is most productive on my own, and I find collaborating with numerous people somewhat exhausting. For these reasons, group projects are a struggle. I acknowledge that group projects are intended to teach the value of cooperation and organization amongst colleagues, and that these skills are valuable in either an academic or professional setting, but I cannot help but think that these experiences also have a negative side-effect of alienating students from their peers. After a number of collaborative projects and discussions with fellow students, I have observed that poor group experiences appear to be the norm amongst fledgeling students in the social sciences. Of course, this impression is entirely unscientific, being based on the highly subjective and questionable reports of fellow pupils, but the complaints, anxieties, and frustrations which surface during each communal project cause the belief that the latent dysfunctions of group work are worth consideration in a sociology class. Historically speaking, my own experiences with teamwork have been disappointing. It can be difficult to gather a number of people who must all work around classes, jobs, children, and social commitments in order to meet for an hour's fruitless work. It can be frustrating not to see the group share one's commitment and motivation to work, and it can be disheartening to compromise one's vision of the final product to remain in-line with the standards and strengths of the team. Frequently, it can feel as though the group has chosen to settle for reducing conflict between members at expense of the product, which each member feels they could have improved alone. This is not meant to be a criticism of my current team of classmates by any means. I like my group members as individuals, and I believe they are intelligent people who share my aspirations of

success. Even amongst good, cooperative people however, even mild disturbances are unavoidable. I believe our current struggle to coalesce upon a research topic is a matter not of conflict, but of confusion. Generally speaking, we appear to suffer from a lack of confidence in any particular topic; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but few of them conveniently overlap to provide us a direct course of action. We may also be suffering in terms of organizational skill; without a leader or a clear research strategy, we are unable to decide where to start or where our individual responsibilities lie. With due dates looming, and an enormous 40% of our grades at stake, dependent largely on the work of others, the group project's primary product thus far has been anxiety. The shortcomings of the group are weaknesses we all share, and I could not in good-conscience blame my experience with group failures entirely on the contributions of others. I will be the first to admit that I hold my team members to unrealistic standards, and have trouble coping with a team when I perceive that I am not able to fully control our final product. I can be quite critical of team strategies, and am not always sensitive to the limitations of the team members. I believe that these conflicts are no person's fault in particular. They are simply the nature of teamwork amongst individuals. With these dysfunctions addressed, the question remains whether the goal of the group project is to learn to resolve them, or to learn about the subject and produce an informed and effective result. In reality, it would seem that these two functions are at odds with one another; they are a tug-of-war with nearly half of our final grades experiencing the strain in between. I cannot help but wonder whether or not group projects as a whole would benefit from a reduction in percentage of our final grade. Would a reduction decrease pressure and anxiety amongst group members, leading to higher positivity, cooperation, and quality? Or do the high stakes demand that students work hard and efficiently without succumbing to apathy? I have a preference without having an answer, but it seems to me a worthwhile question to ask when sociology and education overlap.