A Real Leader Faces the Music, Even When She Doesn't Like the Tune
January 31, 2012 11:15 AM Subscribe
I'm taking a graduate-level course called Leadership in Education. We are required to work in small groups of four throughout the semester to discuss the material and do group projects. I'm really excited about the class, but the other members of my group seem apathetic at best, which makes group discussion and collaboration quite difficult. Given that this is a leadership class, how should I handle this situation?
posted by chara to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm working on my master's in higher education administration at a public regional college. A majority of the students currently work in student affairs, admissions or athletic departments at our university or nearby colleges and are pursuing master's degrees in order to advance their careers in these departments.
This particular course is required for our degree and the curriculum focuses on the organizational and ethical challenges of leadership. Given that this particular degree program is training us to be directors, deans and chancellors in higher-ed institutions, this is a very important class. So far, I find the material fascinating. My group members, two males, one female, do not.
I swear, it's like being in high school again. They complain about the professor's teaching, they complain about the discussion topics ("I don't even know what she means! This is so stupid!") and give elementary, surface-level answers. They pull out their iPhones and text/surf the web while I'm trying to engage and guide them in conversation related to the discussion topics. They have not read the texts required for class (one of them hasn't even bought the books yet!). They complain about the open-book, open-note multiple-choice format of our exams. One of them remarked “I suck at multiple-choice tests. I majored in sports management and we had word-bank/fill in the blank tests. I miss those.”
This is what I’m dealing with, folks.
I am frustrated because I really want to learn and participate in this class, but my group mates don't care. It's embarrassing to try to present group discussion highlights in front of the class when my group spent the last 10 minutes talking about the new elliptical machines at the gym. One of my group members has only attended one of the past three classes.
I’m dreading our upcoming take-home group exams because I know I’m going to be the one doing most of the work, just like in high school.
The seemingly easy solution would be to ask the professor if I could switch groups or if he could talk to my group members, but having worked with this particular professor before, I know that he takes a particularly hands-off laissez-faire approach to things like this and would encourage me to address the group on my own and to use this conflict as a learning experience.
The thing is, I don’t actively dislike my group members. They seem like decent people, albeit rather academically deficient. I understand that this class is not a priority to them. One of them just had a new baby and drives an hour from work to class every week. The other one has a full-time job, a part-time job, and has a 2-hour class directly after ours that lasts until 9pm. They’ve got other stuff going on. That makes me a bit more sympathetic, but I’ve got other stuff going on too. So does everyone else in the class, but every other group seems to have good participation. I look at them longingly sometimes while my group members play Angry Birds.
How can I encourage and inspire them to participate in the class without being a total bitch or a Poindexter? I have to work with these folks for the rest of this semester, plus I’m sure we’ll have classes together again, so I’d like to maintain a cordial relationship.
I’ve thought about being direct and saying, “Hey guys, I know you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on and you’re not a big fan of this class, but this is something that I’m really passionate about and I’d appreciate it if you helped me out and participated in the class”, but I think it’d backfire or just go over their heads. I really don’t know what to do. Maybe I could have a discussion with them about why they are getting their master’s degrees and help them see the importance of this class in the grand scheme of things?
I’m non-confrontational by nature, so I’m really at a loss here. Any advice?