by Kamesh Namuduri

1. Background

Often, students work in groups to do a project or programming assignment. Teachers encourage group projects to inculcate team spirit in students. Group projects also provide an opportunity for students to develop their ability to work with peers. Students are expected to divide the project into individual tasks, share their individual work with other team members and combine their results to prepare the final report.

To understand some of the common problems that students as well as teachers encounter, let us analyze the following case.

Milo, John, and Cindy are good friends and they are graduating this semester. They are working on a group project for their chemistry class taught by Professor Glass. Their project consists of three parts: theoretical background, a chemical experiment and a comparative analysis of their results. At the end of two weeks, each group is expected to turn-in the final report summarizing their work. Professor Glass mentioned that each report should include the contribution of the three members in terms of percentage. Milo, John and Cindy decided to split the work. Milo is responsible for preparing the theoretical background. John agreed to do the experimental work. Cindy decided to take care of the comparative analysis after Milo and John complete their parts. The duration for this project is two weeks. So, Milo and John decided to work on their individual tasks during the first week. Since Cindy decided to work on the analysis of their work, she wanted to work on her part during the second week. John agreed to submit the final report after Cindy sends him her part of the project.

2. Relevant Data for Case analysis:

John spent his time mostly in the lab conducting the experiment and completed his part of the project within the first week and sent his results to Cindy. During this week, he met the teaching assistant for Professor Glass three times during his office hours to clarify some questions related to the experiment. Milo started visiting the library to work on the theoretical part. However, he spent most of his time chatting with his girl friend who happened to work in the same library. At the end of the week, he was able to complete half of the literature survey that the group wanted to complete. Both Milo and John sent their reports to each other and copied to Cindy as well. Cindy has all the material she needed to complete her analysis. However, she was sick during the whole week and could not spend any time on this project. On the last day, the group discussed the project and decided to submit whatever they had done. John submitted the report indicating that all three of them contributed equally for the project.

Professor Glass and his teaching assistant came up with the following grading policy. Each portion of the project will be graded for one hundred points for a total of three hundred. The three students who worked on the project will share total points according to the percentage of they put in. (Assuming that everyone in the group contributed equally to the project, each student will get one-third of the total score, which is equal to one hundred points.) Milo, John and Cindy received a total of 150 points (50 points for the theory, 100 points for the experimental part and 0 for the analysis). Since, the report mentioned that all three contributed equally, Milo, John and Cindy received 50 points each, which is the minimum, score for this project. If Milo, John and Cindy keep quiet, all three of them will pass the course and will be able to graduate this semester.

Question 1:

John maintained a 4.0 GPA during all the previous semesters and if he receives 100 points in this course, he will not only keep his GPA but also receive an award from the college for his overall performance. A score of 50 points will reduce his GPA and he will lose the award. However, John likes his friends and he doesn't like the consequences his friends may encounter if he reveals the truth. What are his options?

Milo is aware that he received the score that he deserved as per his contribution. Cindy could graduate this semester if everyone keeps silent. However, she is aware that John would be the loser. What are the options for the group?

Question 2:

The teaching assistant talked to the three students to find out what exactly happened. What should be his advise to the students? Should he inform Professor Glass? What are his options?

Question 3:

Professor Glass was surprised to see the poor performance of the group. He is aware that John is expected to receive the award. Assuming that the teaching assistant informed him what he knew, what are the Professor's options?

Instructor's Notes

3. Case Overview:

This case is a fictitious case developed based on some of the dilemmas that students encounter with friends. It is intended to bring out discussions on the responsibility and accountability of students, teaching assistant and Professors.

4. Case Objectives:

The big idea in this case study is accountability. When students participate in the group projects, each student must take the responsibility for their individual parts. In the present case, the three students are expected to take credit for what they deserve. They are expected to be accountable for their actions. The teaching assistant as well as the Professor involved is expected to be accountable for their actions as well.

5. Case Analysis Guidelines:

One important point that needs to be taken into consideration is the information available with each individual. For example, the Professor may not be able to find out the actual contribution of individuals in the project.