Edit: I met with the prof and she agreed that it wasn't my responsibility or place to teach my group mates the foundations they were supposed to have learned. A direct quote was that "everyone has to fend for themselves."

There are several similar (and very helpful) questions which address some points of this question, but I feel this question is a bit different and thus merits being asked.

(1) How to handle team member who is unable/unwilling to collaborate

(2) How to handle a colleague who hasn't pulled their weight

(3) How to make group work work?

The first two questions do not apply because each of the collaborators wishes to contribute and not just ride the wave so-to-speak. I attempted to follow some of the suggestions of the third question, but the group thought it was insulting.

add more structure to the group project. This increases the workload on your end but it mitigates the most common issues you'll see in groups during group projects.

Use and quality based hierarchy, assign the hard-working students as group leads.

I am in a group to complete an assignment. The teammates are very willing to collaborate and work, but the problem is that they did not actually learn the course material when they were supposed to. Therefore, they cannot actually help out without a significant amount of learning.

The group expects me to sit down with them for many hours (whole days) to teach them and collectively complete the assignment together. I feel that this is far too much responsibility, effort, and time required on my part, since my teammates lack the skills to contribute because they were unsuccessful in keeping up with the course material.

How should I proceed?


2 Answers 2


You don't really have many options. As I see them:

  1. You can talk to the instructor, explain the situation, and ask to move to another group
  2. You can talk to the instructor, explain the situation, and ask to do the project individually
  3. You can actually sit down and teach them

As far as which you should do, there are too many variable for us to answer here. However, it seems the best would be start with (1). If that fails, try (2). If that also fails, do (3) and try to find the pleasure in teaching others.

  • 1
    Thank you for this answer. I did try 3 already, but the group wants several more days (8h/day). It is not a pleasurable teaching experience because the group tells me how to solve the assignment and then I have to correct their approach, without actually taking any of my input. Furthermore, I have been told it's my fault and responsibility if the group doesn't complete the assignment. If I were teaching an actual course, perhaps that would be fair. But I am just another group member. Oct 18, 2014 at 19:40
  • Depending upon how far along you are with the schedule, i.e. how much time is left, asking the instructor to move you to another group, including perhaps a group of one, seems to be the only way to avoid the teaching task.
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 19, 2014 at 8:55

If a professor truly relies on group work, or if it is common or necessary to a field, then it is the professor's responsibility to teach students how to do it. That doesn't help you, of course, if the prof is avoiding this responsibility.

But, it is a common misconception among unskilled students that "group work" means dividing up the work equally (what ever that means) and then combining the parts into a whole. This is both inefficient and ineffective.

In a group, different people can have different "roles". One can be a researcher, another a writer, another a manager. Roles can be shared and can overlap. More than one writer is good if they work together, not independently, sharing ideas. People should have a say in what their role should be, or at least their principle role. But not all jobs are glamorous and still need to get done.

In your case, you might consider taking on the role of manager and calling a lot of meetings and giving a lot of assignments. Assign someone to a task (What does Aristotle mean here, really?) and give someone else a role of assisting. Have a lot of all hands meetings and some subgroup meetings. Let the work coalesce into a whole.

Imagine the opposite. Two of us want to write the next crime blockbuster novel. I'll write the odd numbered chapters and you write the evens and we'll work in parallel and then just smoosh it together. Or, I'll write the first half and you the last, working simultaneously. Yeah, that should work.

Teams means teamwork. Not all members of a sports team have the same role, of course.

But note that you aren't "teaching" but guiding. Teaching by example, perhaps.

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