Tag Archives: group papers

A Long Semester

I did the math and if you count my June deadlines as the end of the semester (since apparently the actual end is not the end here in Thailand), I’m wrapping up a six months semester.

I started school way before all my classmates in Wisconsin and am finishing months after they finished. 

I am feeling really, really done with school right now.

But I am not done. I found out on Monday we have a group paper still due for Environmental Law (did I mention how much I hate group papers?) and a “self-assessment” for said paper (I am unclear what that means) and the two take home finals (I finally received a way to turn in the one yesterday but the other remains MIA.) 

My motivation deserted me weeks ago. I know it would be better to finish these things up now (and in the case of the group paper, it is due Friday so I better finish it up now!) but I still feel beyond frustrated and beyond done with the whole business. 

People kept asking me what I planned to do with this final week in Thailand. My friends in the other departments planned fun trips to neighboring countries. I wish I could join them or at least experience more of Thailand. But the uncertainty of my semester and the lack of communication from the main office meant I could not confidently say I would be free even after finals ostensibly ended. And sure enough…here I am!

(Hopefully this will be one of the last posts about me complaining about my semester! At this point, I mostly write them as reminders to myself for when I talk with my professor about how the year went. The people-pleaser in me will want to smooth over all the difficulties but I must stand firm for all future students who want to do this program!)

Group Projects

I know I complained in my last post about how group papers are more awful than group presentations, but let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the group presentation I had today. 

For some inexplicable reason, the professor decided to make “peer evaluation” 50% of the grade. Now, let’s recap. Do Thai students pay attention in class? No. Do they focus on the professor when he talks? No. So, do you think they magically pay attention when a fellow student talks? Not on your life.

Maybe he hoped the responsibility of grading the other groups would mean people would stay engaged. I can confidently say that did not work. While presenting, I looked out across the room and saw….someone sleeping, two people with earbuds in, and exactly everyone on their phones. Not that my group acted much better. The girl next to me ate her breakfast (very pungent rice and liver) and then started talking on the phone (all while groups presented.) 

At least the professor was not on his phone. I’ve had some presentations here where the professor spent most the class period scrolling through Facebook. 

My group decided to put me in charge of the “peer” evaluation. Except, I am not really a peer. I am a former debate coach and captain who judges high school forensics for fun. Tell me to evaluate and I will evaluate. Just probably more than anyone expects. 

The professor handed out evaluation sheets and I professionally filled out my information on the ballots evaluation sheets within a matter of seconds. I then waited, pen poised, for the first group. Of the 10 groups present, mine went nearly last so I got to witness quite a bit. 

Different groups struggled with different things. Consistently, but I stress differently with each group, I noted lack of eye contact, a tendency to read block paragraphs off the slide, and a habit of sitting on the floor while other group members presented. I kept thinking, ‘Our group should do so much better.’

But oh, oh, oh, how wrong I was. My group got up there and literally did every. single. thing. I criticized the other groups for doing. My groupmates mumbled into the mic. They read block paragraphs from the slides. They sat on the floor. They chatted amongst one another while someone else presented. I suppose I did not actually see them avoid eye contact, but I did watch them stare avidly at the paper in front of them instead of looking up so I can only imagine what it looked like to the listeners. 

 That is, presuming someone actually listened. 

Group Papers

I have discovered something worse than group projects: group papers. 

The first time a professor assigned one, I thought maybe it was a fluke. Like, he did not think through what he was asking and accidentally assigned 4 of us to write 1 paper instead of 1 of us writing 4 papers or something. But now I know better. I think I have had a group paper due in every single class.

To put it mildly…I am not a fan.

Think of all the hassle of a group project. Now imagine the stress of writing a paper. Put them together. 

99.9% of the time I look at our finished work and think, “I do not want to put my name on that.” 

To give credit to my classmates, they are undergraduates and English is their secondary language. I admire them for trying. They do their best.

But besides being a native English speaker and grad student, I am a trained legal writer and editor. I expect more from myself and any work I turn in. 

It creates a difficult tension. On the one hand, I am stressed because I just read through my classmates’ writing three times and I’m still not sure what they are saying. At the same time, outside of completely rewriting everything, there is not much I can do to change it. Helpful hints only go so far when your audience does not see a problem. 

It does not help any that we have not gotten back any grades for group papers yet. I just keep telling myself, “Surely the professors cannot expect more than what your classmates are turning in. This must be the norm.” Right? Right?