Learning to work successfully in groups is an important skill that students need not only in the classroom, but also eventually in the workplace – so a group project in class can provide both useful and applicable lessons. Unfortunately, one of the caveats of team projects is that working in groups can be very difficult and stressful. The Nerd is here are with some basic tips to help you improve communication and create a successful group project.
Get Organized Immediately
Have a quick meeting with your whole group right away and exchange contact information. Then pinpoint exact times when everyone is able to get together for meetings, and where those meetings should be held, keep in mind that it might not be necessary to have lots of meetings, but you should get together at least once to make sure everything is in order.
In addition, it’s important to organize your tasks immediately. First, unless the group has been assigned a specific topic or task, the group needs to reach a consensus about the topic. Second, group members need to be assigned particular roles and responsibilities. Each group member should be asked to accomplish a specific task before the next group meeting.
Clarify the Assignment
Take the time to make sure you understand the assignment, and be sure to ask the professor if you have any questions. In addition, it’s a good idea to run your group’s ideas by the professor and make sure this idea is appropriate for the assignment. Everyone is busy, so group meetings need to be as time effective as possible. First, avoid the urge to chat and socialize. Yes, it’s great if group members get along, but it’s also important to stay on task.
Ensure Success at the Meeting(s)
In order to use time effectively, it’s also important to come to group meetings prepared. If only half the group completes the tasks that were assigned for the meeting, this will waste time for everyone.
A helpful strategy for keeping group project meetings organized is to write a schedule of what needs to happen during the designated time. Your schedule might look something like this:
1. Jessica and Jon: Discuss the important main points that you found in the research.
2. Group: Discuss how to incorporate these points into the presentation.
3. Rachel and Steve: Show the group your rough drafts of the charts and graphs.
4. Group: Evaluate the charts and graphs and decide what changes Carlos and Sara need to make.
5. Group: Write a rough draft of the group presentation and decide who will present each piece of information.
6. Group: Delegate tasks to be completed before the next meeting.
A group project is not the place to be shy. For one thing, group success depends on a free and broad exchange of ideas, so everyone needs to contribute. In addition, it’s important to speak up about problems you may be having with other group members. If someone is not doing his or her fair share of the work, this person needs to be confronted.
Groupthink is when the group reaches a consensus about something and everyone agrees without question – even if that idea is not actually the best one for the group. Sometimes group members are so eager to achieve consensus that they fail to explore other possibilities. Groups can reduce or avoid groupthink by devoting some time to brainstorming, and by thoroughly discussing the pros and cons of proposed ideas. As a group member, don’t be afraid to disagree, as sometimes consensus can actually hurt the group.
Group Workload Balance
One of the most frustrating parts of group work is that some people don’t do their fair share of the work. To some degree, there’s only so much you can do about this, other than to make sure you get your own work done. If someone isn’t doing enough work, the first thing to do is to point this out to this person gently. You may want to get other group members to “back you up.” If the problem persists, voice your frustrations more emphatically. Avoid getting the professor involved if at all possible, but if all else fails, report the problem to the “authority.”
Working in groups can be a nightmare, but it’s a skill you truly need to learn and absorb for future use. Make an effort to get organized and to voice your ideas and concerns, and you’re on your way to a successful group project. We also suggest bringing a few cans of Nerd Energy Drink to the meeting just to keep everyone focused on the task at hand. Next week, the Nerd tackles the all-important process of delivering a winning class presentation.