If you’re going to college, it’s inevitable that you’ll be placed in a group project at least once. Many people cringe when their instructor speaks the words, anticipating the awkwardness of working with classmates, tense situations, and knowing that there will be at least one person who does nothing to contribute. However, if you have the right tools, the right attitude, and make the most of the situation, you can not only survive but thrive in your group project.
1. Choose your group members carefully. Friends don’t always make the best group members, and strangers don’t always make the worst group members. Either way, take into account people’s schedules, but always know that there will be unexpected delays and things that come up. Before you even start to work, get to know each other on at least a basic level during the first meeting. This is a good time to get everyone’s contact information, too.
2. Create a plan. Set expectations for the group and for each individual member. This will be easier once you assign responsibilities, set check-ins, and outline deadlines. Often times, it’s more efficient to break out the project into smaller tasks to make it easier to complete. And – no matter what you do or how convinced you are that it can happen – do not throw it together the night before it’s due!
3. Use the tools available to you. Utilize project management and communication tools such as Trello, Google Drive, email, group SMS chats, and even Microsoft Excel.
4. Don’t be afraid to loop in the professor. If you need help or guidance, the professor is your best resource. If there’s a group issue that you can’t work out internally, don’t hesitate to contact your instructor and explain the problem. Including him or her on emails to the whole group can push some less-than-motivated students to action.
5. Analyze group dynamics. It may take a little while, but be conscious about finding your place in the group. It may be the leader (and every group needs one), but even if it’s not, continue to be an active, contributing member. Also, figure out the best way to communicate with your group.
Despite hesitations from certain educators and institutions about assigning group work, or at least too much of it, having some group work is beneficial. It adds variety to the types of learning opportunities available and may help some students retain the material longer when compared to lectures. You can gain a deeper understanding of the topic by sharing ideas within your group and experience different opinions and perspectives, which enhances the overall learning experience.
For busy college students, group projects may seem like a waste of time. But if everyone works effectively, you can increase your productivity and learn more material in a shorter time. By getting you to work in teams and develop your leadership abilities, group work also prepares you for the “real world.” During college, it’s a great way to discover your own strengths and weaknesses.
Overall, a positive experience with group work can lead to a better college experience. And remember – don’t stress, and stay positive!