Is it Better to Work in Groups or Work Alone?

Throughout high school I never really had to put in much effort in order to do well. I didn’t study that often, I never sought out my teachers for help; I pretty much just did the bare minimum and I never had a problem getting good grades. With almost a month of college now under my belt, I realize my work ethic really has to change. Since I don’t have a ton of experience with studying, I decided to research what the best way to study was: working in groups or working alone.

I came across a study done by Gregory Walton and Priyanka Carr, an assistant professor and graduate student at Stanford (here’s the article explaining the study). In their five experiments, they found that people who worked together were more motivated to succeed than those who worked by themselves. What the participants had to do was go into separate rooms where they were told they would work on a puzzle. One group of participants were told they would either get a tip from another participant or have to give one. The other group of participants were told they would receive a tip from one of the researchers. What the participants didn’t know was they would all receive the same tip made by someone who was not involved in the task. The people who thought they were being helped by another participant, or thought they were working together, were noted as being more interested in the puzzle, being less annoyed by the puzzle, and overall put more effort into the challenge. Walton and Carr explained that it’s not a competition or an obligation that motivates people, it’s about feeling like you’re part of a team.

Does this prove that I’m going to do better if I work in groups from now on? No, of course not. This study could be a complete fluke. However, it does provide evidence that it may work, so why not give it a shot?


Working alone ‘together’ can be good motivation

7 thoughts on “Is it Better to Work in Groups or Work Alone?

  1. sbm5465

    I find this post very interesting! Personally, I would have believed that working alone is more beneficial to the mind. You learn to think for yourself and allow yourself to work through problems on your own before getting the answer from someone else. I wonder if the experiment would have turned out different had the task at hand not been a puzzle. If it were a powerpoint project, would the results have still been the same/ I understand there are definitely benefits to working in groups and having different ideas and beliefs come to gather, but I would think that in some instances, you might learn the most if you work alone.

  2. Katherine Guerney

    I can attest from personal experience that I always like working with other people. In high school even if me and my friends were in different classes we would always go to the library and do homework together because it made us feel motivated and gave us a designated amount of time that we would allot for completing our work. I agree that the experiment could be a fluke since it was only performed once, so I think that if there was another study conducted where they used multiple groups of people there would be a more clear conclusion. But another issue that can arise is that everyone has different studying preferences so one person may be easily motivated to do work on their own and may not need to feel like part of a team to stay focused.

  3. Isobel Danielle Hoang

    I thought that this was interesting. When reading your blog post I couldn’t help but think of learning styles. Everyone has a different learning style. According to UMass, there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Visual learners like to see things like figures and instructions. Auditory learners learn best by hearing things for example enjoy discussions. Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing things like experiments. I for one am a visual learner and prefer to read things in order to learn them. So I disagree with your article because I do not like working in groups because that involves learning through discussion and that is not my preferred way of learning. What is your learning style and what helps you best working on your own or in groups?

  4. Charles Tyler Hart

    While this could mean something, I believe it might be too small of an experiment to use as evidence that working in groups is better. However, there are many things that are done very well in this experiment. First off, there is a control group. This is essential for comparison. And of course this is a blinded study. So while this study is small, it still has potential to grow into something bigger. If more people were added to this study it would be interesting to see the results.

  5. Catherine Drinker

    I like this post because I can relate to it. When I work with others, it motivates me to not only do the work but do my best at the assignment or whatever it is we are working on. Like most people, I want the people I study with or do homework with to think I’m smart so that helps fuel me to work better than I would alone.

  6. Yixiao Jiang

    Actually, I work along for most of the time because it is easier for me to get concentrated when I am alone. However, I also tried to work in a group. Since several people may have different ideas about one topic, it might be easier to get more useful information when you are working together. I think the important thing is that try to do things that fits yourself. And I agree with your idea too.

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