6 Tips for Surviving a Group Project
I’ll be the first to admit that group projects were my least favorite thing about college. It’s not that I dislike working with other students, but I somehow always got stuck in the group with students who didn’t want to contribute anything to the project. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so knowing that my peers' work could impact my grade made me a bit nervous. Unfortunately, group projects are practically unavoidable, and you’ll probably face several in college before you graduate. I think I completed about 10 collaborative group projects as an undergrad. The first few projects were pretty bumpy, and I learned some valuable lessons about working with other people. In retrospect, however, I probably could have accomplished so much more if I had just followed these simple tips for surviving a group project.
1. Get to Know Each Other
When you’re assigned to a group, take some time to learn about each other. This can be done in a quiet room at the library, or you may opt to have some fun by heading to the local coffee shop. Introduce yourself to your peers; let them know why you are in college and what motivates you. If you’ve participated in group projects before, share some of your team experiences, good or bad, with the group. Once you have a better understanding of where you are each coming from, it should be easier to interact and work together.
2. Clarify Expectations and Roles
Early in the process, it’s important to identify a group leader or moderator. He or she will play a vital role in keeping the entire group on task and in making sure that everyone is contributing. You may also want to elect a devil’s advocate (DA), as it can be easy for everyone to endorse an idea without thinking it through completely or considering alternative ideas. The DA will be the voice of reason, looking at ideas from all angles and challenging the team to provide solid arguments for its choices. Once these key roles are assigned, the team needs to identify clear expectations for the project and assign tasks to each individual.
3. Create a Plan
It’s never a good idea to just dive into a project and expect that everyone knows what to do and when to do it. Even after you have assigned tasks to all team members, create a solid plan detailing specific items assigned to each person and when those tasks should be completed. It’s also important to schedule regular group meetings to ensure everyone is moving in the right direction. Be sure to leave plenty of time prior to the deadline date, just in case you need to make some changes or pick up someone else’s slack. Nothing is worse than finding out the night before the project is due that someone failed to complete his/her work.
This is of prime importance for classmates that want to work well together. Make sure everyone has given the group leader his/her email address and cell phone number. Next, consider creating a Facebook page or Google Hangout for your team; you’ll need a real-time, centralized, online location where people can connect when they have questions. And don’t wait until the last minute to ask for help. When you have a problem, post to the group page or call another member. Sometimes, bouncing ideas off of each other can help get those creative juices flowing again.
5. Deal With Conflicts
If you think that all individuals on the team are going to get along with each other and be the best of friends, think again. You may end up in a group that has several strong personalities, or worse, one that has a bunch of wallflowers. Mixing unfamiliar people together in a time-sensitive situation can sometimes lead to some serious conflicts. Encourage team members to voice concerns and questions early on, instead of keeping things inside. Just remember that this is a temporary situation and try to make the best of it.
6. Don’t Procrastinate
Remember when I said to create a plan? Well, it only works if you actually follow the suggested timelines and meet deadlines. Don’t put off your tasks until the last minute. You’ll only create undue stress for yourself and possibly put your team grade at risk. Tackle assignments early, giving yourself plenty of time to ask questions or make revisions, if needed. If everyone stays on task, you’ll be more confident in your final product and might actually have fun during your presentation.
If you are assigned to work on a group project this semester, do yourself a favor and check out the 20 Online Collaboration Tools for College Students posted on ScholarshipExperts.com. It lists several resources for online meetings, sharing documents, and working together remotely. These resources are great, especially if your team members don’t live nearby or close to your school. I don’t think anyone really loves the idea of working on group projects, but at least these tips and tools should help you survive with minimal damage and respectable grades!