Working with Groups: Do’s and Don’ts

Group projects, you either love them or hate them. You can look forward to having new perspectives and being able to lighten your load, or you can loathe the fact that you now have other people to rely on and that you might butt heads. Either way, professors seem to love assigning them under the mentality that it will prepare us for our future careers. Perhaps it is true, or perhaps we live in a scholarly Lord of the Flies. We can’t avoid group projects, so we might as well embrace them and work towards a great grade!

 

When working in a group…

 

Do: create multiple avenues of communication

It’s tempting to just connect on a messenger app, but in the long run, it’s infinitely better to add your group mates on at least two platforms. You can chat on Facebook, use Whatsapp, text, Skype, use Discord, and the list goes on. Having only one avenue of communication is greatly limiting: what if one goes down? If you’re only using Facebook, what if it goes down for the day? If you’re only texting, what if one person goes out of the country? Using multiples can also create more of a nudge for absentee members.

 

Don’t: argue or fight where others can see you (in public, on Moodle, etc.)

If you’re squabbling publicly, people are watching and they’re going to spill the tea later. Especially don’t fight in front of the professor. It reflects poorly on everyone in the group, showing a lack of professionalism and courtesy. It’s entirely fine to disagree, but yelling is a surefire way of creating hostility that will be difficult to resolve under the pressures of academia.

Photo via Pexels

 

Do: keep in contact

Yes, it’s important to have different ways of talking, but it’s even more important to actually use them. By talking to your groupmates frequently, you can easily check on people’s progress and share ideas. There’s no stressing of if Becky finished her section, because you can easily check in.

 

Don’t: be inflexible

Some people do their best work at three a.m. on Saturdays — only. However, if the only time you can all meet up (or worse, have their parts of the project in) is at seven a.m. Friday, you may have to sacrifice your special time and work with the rest of your team. Flexibility is a great professional trait and translates so well into your future career. Not only does it show you’re able to roll with the punches, but it also will help reduce conflict. You may have to skip out on hanging out with friends, but a bright red A+ soothes the pain.

 

Do: be mindful and respectful of others’ opinions and workstyles

When you’re so used to your own ways of working and studying, it can be difficult to combine it with others. No two people are going to approach a project in the same way. You might not understand how someone can possibly work like they do, but you have to take a leap of faith sometimes and just trust they know what they’re doing.

 

Don’t: leave things until the last minute

It’s unrealistic to have everything done immediately, but even saying hello and exchanging contact information after having groups assigned (or within a few days) creates a positive first interaction. Setting up (and sticking to!) a daily or weekly schedule with goals creates consistency and accountability. Meeting up is even better, whether on Discord, Skype or in person. These are especially fantastic as they’re dedicated purely for your project and you know everyone will be there. We’ve all experienced the pure panic of procrastination and it’s stressful enough for one, so don’t risk multiplying it!

 

Photo by Lukas Blazek

 

Do: consider setting up a group document

Google extensions (docs, drive, slides, etc.) are a dream for group projects. They make it so all members can see any changes to the information or presentation itself. You don’t have to struggle to explain (or understand) what exactly happened, as you can just click on the link and see for yourself. It also creates accountability through edit history, you can see who changed what and when.

 

Don’t: expect one person to do all the work

Uneven workloads are unfair and frustrating. It may seem obvious, but too often one group member has to carry the other on their back and it can create a lot of tensions. In certain cases, everyone gets the same mark, so why aren’t they all doing the same amount of work?

 

 

Do: provide constructive feedback

It’s easier to just gloss over what other people are saying sometimes (especially if your topic is a bit dull), but this is exactly how bad ideas come to fruition. By actually listening, thinking and responding critically, you’re able to work with your group mates properly, you’re able to be hands-on, and you appear infinitely more polite. Keep in mind, though, to be kind and productive!

 

Don’t: wing it in presentations

We’ve all seen that group completely flounder, clearly clueless. It’s not cute. It’s awkward and for the audience, entirely cringeworthy. Be sure to practice the entire presentation, and not just individually! Doing at least a few trial runs together gives the opportunity to meld everything together so there is a nice flow. This helps you appear put together and professional, and looks amazing to a professor.

 

Photo via Unsplash

 

Do: let the professor know (kindly!) when you just can’t resolve things

Sometimes you just can’t cooperate with everyone, and that’s okay. If you’re at least able to keep it all together, you probably won’t ever see your group mates again. If things turn nasty, it’s alright to tell your professor that you’re having difficulties. Some may get frustrated that you weren’t able to work it out, but it happens in “real life” too! This is especially important if you feel you’re doing most of the work and you’re all being graded the same. It sucks, but it happens!

 

Working with other people can be incredibly complex. With different opinions and lived experiences, people can become frustrated and upset, but it doesn’t have to be like this! Simple do’s and don’ts can make all lives much easier. In this month of madness (and all in the future!), take comfort in knowing there’s an easier way to handle groups.

Photo by Brooke Cagle