I was a part of a project course for about four months working as a team member in one of the teams, the project was extremely hard for all of us, but we were working real good together keeping up, but out of three of us, one was being a bit lazier than the other and usually me and one other of team members was doing most of the things, I hate to say I did everything, but as far as this is a case of rights and equality, I want to say that preparing all the presentations, writing the final reports, programming-side, all was on me.. Now when the grades have come out, the person that did the least has got the highest grade (5), while me and the other team member who did most got lower grades than them (we got 4). It wouldn't irritate me as much if all three of us had gotten 4, but it's ridiculous when the person who had put the least effort has gotten 5..

Grading was based on team members grading each other plus the instructors in charge of the course grading people too. In grading team members, I gave everybody full points, and I am very sure everyone else in my team also gave me full points, I have no doubts about that.

How would you deal with such an unfair case?

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    If lazy guy sandbagged the whole project, then why would he not also sandbag your grade? Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 15:55
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    The only thing you can do is talk to the instructor. Be prepared for a surprise if lazy guy completely denies your claims. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 16:00
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    In grading team members, I gave everybody full points — "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this." Why did you lie to the instructor about your lazy colleague's contributions?
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 17:09
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    You were unfair to the team member who did work when you gave just as high a grade to the non-working member. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 0:27
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    I'm doing site editing work and was surprised to see 4 close votes cast because the question was about situations faced by undergraduate students. Please be mindful that there are group projects with similar grading mechanism in graduate institutes as well. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 13:22

3 Answers 3


It seems to me that faculty fall into two camps on graded group work: the first is the camp that avoids it where they can, because it seems to always involve asymmetric work and annoyance, and the second uses it because they think working in groups and dealing with the inherent difficulties therein is an important skill.

Without any additional context, it seems like your professor falls into the second group. Either that or they simply haven't reflected on the matter and are doing it because they (or the people who taught them) have always done it. Regardless, they are unlikely to be receptive to your complaints. Unless this is their first time doing it, you can be certain others have complained about this in the past. In other words, part of the lesson was probably you handling the dynamics of group work, including asymmetric productivity and quality.

I should also point out that you gave this person you claim did less work a top score. This leaves you with a very difficult case to make.

If you do decide to protest to the professor about it, I would phrase it as a question. You want to do better, and you thought your whole group worked well together, so you want to be clear on how one person on the same project got a higher score than everyone else. Was it based on some work they did? Was it based just on grades from each other? You'll get a feel quickly if the professor is interested in hearing your defense of the issue, or if you should just move on and treat it as a lesson for the future about group work.


If every member of a team is marked individually, then obviously there was a component to the work that was done individually. Perhaps how the work was written up or a presentation? Regardless, the lazy individual scored the best mark presumably because their individual component was better than the rest of the group.

You may see this as unfair, but where does that inequality really stem from? The professor marking the work? The lazy individual who maximised their effort in areas that yielded the most reward?

This is a "don't hate the player hate the game" scenario, but really it goes one step further than that, because the actual source of the inequality came from you and is not inherent to the game. You put in far more effort than the lazy person, and caused an imbalance. In short, you were unfair to yourself, and this matter won't be concluded until you pay back what you owe to yourself.

If that doesn't make a whole bunch of sense to you right now, don't worry, the concept that people can be unfair to themselves is not something people learn until they're really quite mature. Cheating yourself often requires you to forgive yourself, which is an even harder concept to wrap your head around. But this is how we grow as individuals.


If it's exactly the way you say and you are not wrong about this, then think like this: it's a lesson that life is very unfair . It has happened to me too, I was a student in Strasbourg - a human rights master. There was someone from a certain country and there is no friendship between her country and mine, if you understand what I mean and this girl did everything she could to make others think badly about my team work, she even tried this in front of a Professor. Just because I was from my country. I was lucky that the French did not believe her . Anyway what you say there it can happen in a big company, a law firm too and so on. Talk to your professor.

  • You know how hard it is when it comes to "project/team work". It is so extremely hard to truly "defend" yourself if you do not want to be pretentious and not talk about what you did in the project.. I mean what else can I write? I have been trying so hard for about 7 hours now to write a perfect letter to the professor in charge (because the instructor implied in her email that that person who got higher grade was more active which is a slanderous lie) but I cannot get it right because in any aspect if I want to "prove" something I have to boast about myself and do comparisons, which I hate..
    – l..
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 19:09
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    @Bert: The lesson here is likely that as an academic and professional, you need to market/advertise your accomplishments. It is the only way they will be recognized. Consider: mainstreet.com/article/… Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 19:43
  • I am like you , I don't like to boast about myself and all my life I suffered because of this. Do yourself a favour and learn from other people mistakes, mines for instance, if you can, if you are tough. it's easier for tough people. But it's hard for educated, gentle people, they are modest, which is not good in general, unless you meet people like you, who can appreciate the noble character. Forge about this now and if it's possible , in the future avoid team work and do a research/work alone that nobody can steal and brag about .
    – Claudia
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 12:42

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