I'm the supervisor of a seminar.

A team of two students is preparing a common presentation for the seminar. The team has to write a report (a preliminary version for double-blind reviewing by other teams and a final version read by me) and give two talks; the team has a lot of freedom on how and what they do. The topic, the seminar dates, the duration, and the deadlines for handing in the reports and the slides are fixed.

I put the two together a few months ago (they had not known each other before, so I had to do all the organization via e-mail). They already submitted the preliminary version of the report more-or-less in time. However, 5 days before handling in the final report and 12 days before the presentation, one of them complained about the poor performance of another one. I asked them to clearly state their contributions by a particular deadline; one did so, while the other did not answer by the deadline. I offered them to split and am waiting for the answer.

I do care that all the participants of the seminar and me learn something new from the students' presentations. Moreover, I get evaluated by the seminar participants anonymously; the evaluation goes to the department. I do care about good evaluation results, too.

How should I deal with such an unpleasant situation?

1 Answer 1


This post might be relevant to you: Should I hide the fact that I did a group assignment completely by myself?

Regarding your question:

You put them together a few months ago, and still you only get a complaint a few days before the deadline. Now, there are two possible cases:

  1. They don't have a finished report by the deadline. In this case, I would take the appropriate steps. They had months to discuss the topic with you, to get into another team, etc., if they only come to you five days before the end, they have to take the consequences.
  2. They have a finished report, but one of them claims to have done most of the work. In this case, you already took good steps, I would continue along this path. If the student doesn't answer, assume he dropped the course and act accordingly.

Regarding your evaluation, you should know that it is common for students who get a bad grade (like it might be the case for the lazy student here) to give a bad evaluation. The people reading these evaluations should also be aware about this and as long as it is only a single one that stands out negatively, it shouldn't affect you too much. Be prepared to explain and justify the steps you have taken, e.g. offering the students to split.

  • 1
    Thank you! It is between cases 1 and 2 as of now. I adapted the question accordingly.
    – Leon Meier
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:00
  • 1
    There already has been one early dropout from another team. So, if the second student drops out, I'm likely to get two negative gradings, in your opinion, right?
    – Leon Meier
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:31
  • @LeonMeier It'll depend on why the other student dropped out. If he or she just had too much to do, dropping your seminar may have had the least impact on graduating. Or it might have been the hardest and taking the most amount of time. If a student feels that the workload is too much for the amount of credits--bad review.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 18:52
  • 1
    @mkennedy unclear. There was insufficient feedback from the side of the student to me.
    – Leon Meier
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 23:56
  • @LeonMeier There's no way you can predict what kind of feedback/review a student's going to give. Someone may do fine in class but hate your clothes to the point that they'll write a bad review or think the class was too easy or too hard or whatever.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 0:08

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