If you’re a college student, you have most likely been given the assignment of working in a group for a project in your college career. If so, you might know that group projects sometimes don’t work in college. Not to generalize group projects or anything, but once you get out of high school where everything is policed by the watchful eye of your teacher, group projects start to get kind of tricky. You may find yourself doing all the work or even worse…find one of your other group members has already done everything before you could even open your laptop to begin.
Nobody wants to do all the work and let some slacker get the credit for it– especially when it’s a final project and has taken hours to complete. It’s hard to find ways around this, especially because humans tend to be nervous about calling people out or “tattling” on other members of the group. Some of the things are inevitable for ensuring that things are fair… but I’m gonna give you a few tips on how to structure your group project so that you can possibly avoid this issue.
1. Make a Plan
The first step is one of the most important steps of all and could make or break your group project. If you get time in class, use it to your advantage to make a plan. Talk with your group members, exchange phone numbers (or emails if you’re still living in the 20th century), and devise a plan for your project. If you know exactly what you are going to do for the project, try to scaffold tasks so that each member of the group has a job. Try to assign members to certain roles that they feel comfortable in. For example, assign a leader, an organizer, someone to finalize the project, et cetera, so that everyone feels like they are contributing something. Make this plan as set in stone as you can. Make a group chat. Send the plan in the group chat. Remember to get started as soon as possible!
2. Time Management
You have your plan, now what? Time management is where things can start to get a bit tricky. Don’t just go home and forget about the project. Dividing your work on the project into little blocks of time is what will help you to not be scrambling in the days before it is due. Set expectations for your group to follow so that each group member is expected to be involved and participate. This will help get work done ahead of time and will help you avoid stress. Obviously, it may not be possible that every team member puts in that much work each week, but putting those guidelines on the table for everyone can help separate those who are doing work from those who aren’t. Time management in general is a super important skill, but on a group project, it can help make a difference between those who usually carry their weight and those who don’t.
3. Communication is Key
This is the GOLDEN RULE, ladies. Not just in group projects, but in all aspects of life. Communication with your group members is extremely important. Communicating the expectations you have set in the first two steps is how you will be able to work more cohesively with your group members. You can complain all you want about people not pulling their weight, but it makes absolutely no difference if you don’t communicate to them that you are upset. And communicating isn’t just important when something is wrong. It’s also important to communicate when something has gone right! Praise and words of affirmation are important to boosting team morale. Your expectations mean nothing if you are unable to get them across in a mature way. The higher the morale of your group members, the more likely you will work together smoothly. Additionally, making sure that everyone understands what is expected of them is important and opening up good lines of communication can build trust. If you don’t master this skill, you may find your group struggling to stay afloat.
4. Wrapping it Up
Now, you may see yourself as a nice person who doesn’t want to throw anyone under the bus. But, when your professor offers a way for you to rate the work your group members did on the project, use that to your advantage but be honest. If someone did barely any work, tell your professor that. If you did all of the work, tell your professor that. Honesty is key especially when the entire group project does not reflect your personal effort and hard work. It’s not high school anymore, this is real life. In the nicest way possible, communicate to your professor how the group project truly went down. If you followed all the above steps and things went poorly, tell your professor. If things went amazing, tell your professor. Either way, your honesty will show in your grade.
5. Learn Something
Finally, learn from your experiences in working with others. You will always encounter a slacker or someone who just tries to take all the glory, especially in college group projects. However, learning how to communicate and problem-solve through these issues is what will get you farther, not just in college but in life. And if your group project doesn’t go as planned, remember that one project is not the end of the world. Even if your final product was not what you expected, you have learned from working with these people and from creating it. That’s important to remember.
Take these tips to heart and hopefully, these dreadful group projects will be a little bit easier!