I’ve written about how Swedes are very individualistic and that, compared to some other countries, the lack of unnecessary [sic!] social interaction can come off as strange to foreigners. This individual autonomy is a strong element in the Swedish culture and I believe it’s but one of the things that make this culture so fascinating.
So, here’s the thing: I came to Sweden for a Master programme and, expecting this individualism to reflect to almost all aspects of my education, and, well… I was in for a surprise.
SWEDES. LOVE. GROUP. WORK.
It was funny and curious to realise that most of my assignments at school were supposed to be done in groups instead of on your own. I wondered whether I’ll actually learn everything in a way I wanted to, and if this will just be a royal annoyance and a waste of precious time.
All it took was one group meeting to answer those questions and doubts. Group work is one of the characteristics of the Swedish education system and I am a fan.
Besides, in Sweden, universities have an abundance of group rooms you can book for a couple hours! Some of the rooms are even equipped with whiteboards, screens and what not. It eliminates the headache of finding a place for your group to meet.
Yes, group assignments can last forever and at some point you just can’t understand why two of your group members can’t get along over one simple issue and the discussion goes on and on and you think it will never end and you will never feel the comfort of your own bed again because you will end up sleeping under your group desk.
But it’s really not that bad, to be honest. In fact, there are so many advantages to group work!
1) The tasks you usually receive for group work are problems, so group work is designed to help enhance your problem-solving skills both as an individual as well as a group member.
2) It makes you a better team player and collaborator. The group has one goal and you are a valuable contributor to achieving that goal by being able to discuss, take on a certain amount of work and compromise. This is definitely a skill you want to have once you’re looking for a job.
3) Picture this: there is a group faced with a problem and then there is you, alone, faced with the same problem. You will probably feel at a disadvantage, right? That’s because a group of individuals have a cumulatively larger amount of information at hand (individual experiences, knowledge etc) than you as an individual and will likely reach the solution either more quickly than you alone, or better than you alone… or both.
4) It’s a great way to absorb all the knowledge and information you received during lectures and classes simply because you go through it together with your group via application of the information to a particular problem and discussing it with your peers.
5) Discussing things with your peers gives you an opportunity to get clarification on things you misunderstood or didn’t catch during lectures – and vice versa, you have the opportunity to clarify something to a member of your group as well.
6) Group work creates a feeling of solidarity.
It certainly isn’t all pink and fluffy – there are a disadvantages as well, and everyone is likely to face them at some point. My personal worst disadvantage is that there is occasionally that one group member who doesn’t want to do the work and that can create is a big imbalance in the whole group and cause an overall dissatisfaction. This problem, however, isn’t insurmountable. You and your group can work together towards solving this issue, and it will make your group stronger.
For the sake of comparison (and my curiosity): do you have a lot of group work during studies in your country? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. 🙂