Fall Break is right around the corner, but as you approach the end of this week, a million different mid-term assignments block you and your freedom. If you are like me, you might be a part of a group project or three. It happens every semester. You may already be completing the work given to you by your instructor – or worst, struggling to accomplish work given to you by fellow students. People fear group projects with reason. There are a variety of ways to break the tension and aim to experience low conflict and produce high-quality work.
Group projects are stressful and it is a lot to handle especially if you are having to juggle multiple projects in one semester. However, there are a variety of tricks to follow in order to avoid conflict. Remember: group projects are not the enemy and survival is crucial. Here’s how:
Be flexible with creating a plan
Everyone in the team will have other commitments to attend to that it will be difficult to find a time to set aside a meeting. Meet as early as possible and during the meeting, be specific about time constraints and have important deadlines be the highlight of the conversation. There was a time I couldn’t meet with my group face-to-face due to being out of town, which was scheduled in advance. This is when flexibility was really important and was practiced. Instead of completely canceling, we managed to do an audio conference meeting where we were able to discuss each of our responsibilities. Showing your commitment to the group, no matter the constraints, sets the tone for the rest of your class project.
Keep the communication open and consistent
Google Docs is one way I’ve kept up with changes and updates within my group. The line of communication was effortless. We exchanged phone numbers and alternative e-mail addresses so if issues occurred we would have a way of contacting the members. This helps everyone be accountable for their actions and duties. Outside of our main discussion conversations, e-mail blasts were also sent for important reminders. You can include your instructor in the e-mails so everyone is aware of where they are at in the assignment. This helps with making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Assign tasks equally
If the instructor assigns a team leader, the leader is in charge of administering tasks equally between the group. If a team leader is not assigned, it is up to the group to decide which parts they can take on and to assemble the responsibilities evenly. This way group members don’t feel like they are doing everything and everyone has a clear goal of when to finish their part of the work.
Do not procrastinate
Do not wait until the very last possible second to start your portion of the work. There’s a chance your team may need the information you are putting together in order to finish theirs. Waiting until the last minute will leave your group feeling lost. This also gives time to answer questions or fix problems that might arise.
Ask for help
You are going to have questions that the group may not be able to answer. There might be issues between the members of the group that you cannot take to them, instead, what you can do is ask for help from the instructor. My group had a project in which only four members out of the six were actively working on. Two members gave zero participation. This meant the four had to pick up after the two members and did additional work. Our project leader asked for help as they weren’t able to do it themselves. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help, as that is the only way to get the job done.
Group projects will help prepare students for the real world where they will have to work with different people and collaborate with different ideas. It is possible to get a good grade on a group project and learn something new. You can take what you’ve learned to heart as you’ll be using these tips and techniques after college. It is one way you can incorporate an important soft skill and carry it with you in your professional life. Employers are looking for candidates who are team players and who can play nice with others. Make group projects count because teamwork makes the dream work!