Alone we can do so little, together we can do so muchHellen Keller
If you hear “group projects” and feel a sense of dread, I feel you. Group assignments can be a nightmare for all of us, and many of us have at least one dramatic and terrible story from the past that still haunts us.
Aside from the fact that you’re working with strangers who may have completely different working styles, the main sticking point is that your final marks will be determined by the work quality of the entire team rather than your own efforts. This amplifies the stress and tension if someone in the group underperforms or lacks a cooperative attitude.
Over my four years of learning, I’ve had many group projects, some smooth and rewarding and others a horrible experience I can’t forget. Over time, I’ve tried tips from many experts, and some worked while others proved ineffective. Check out the best ones!
Set ground rules
As soon as you know who the group participants are, ask to meet them after class. During the first meeting, set the ground rules (or project charters, as the profs say) on how everyone wants to be contacted, the team’s availability and firm timelines on each deliverable.
This will prevent countless problems. For one, there’s nothing worse than spending an entire week just trying to get in touch with someone. Second, people are busy and sometimes things come up, so it’s best to carve out specific dates for discussion and set deadlines.
More hands make for lighter work, and there are various things you’ll learn from group projects. Experts say they help hone your communication skills, have your assumptions challenged and builds social skills that you’ll need when you work. However, you won’t reap these benefits if people stay quiet during the meetings.
To encourage engagement, kick things off by asking people about their day or strike a conversation everyone can engage in. It breaks the ice, calms nerves and gets everyone ready to offer input without inhibition.
During group work, conflicts are unavoidable. Not just over personal opinions, but also regarding expectations, quality of work, contributions and more. You have to understand that everybody is different and make allowance for these differences. Here, early communication is key to ensuring that there’s no heated discussion and shoddy work submitted minutes before the deadline.
When arguments happen, it’s easy to let emotion get in the way. Learning how to separate the people from the problems is something that takes me a while to realize too. Remember, there is no “I” in team.
Honesty is your friend, not your enemy
Open discussion is the best solution for group problems. For example, if you disagree with a course of action or topic, let your group members know respectfully. If you feel overburdened or have a tight schedule, speak up so that it doesn’t affect timelines and you can have a team member step in to help.
Being open and honest in a group prevents people from feeling sidelined or lost. It also encourages a diversity of opinion and creates a space where views can be challenged, making the ultimate result much better. The best part? You’ll meet your deadlines without any last-minute surprises.
Fuel team spirit and morale
Whether in sports, business or an academic environment, team spirit plays a vital role in performance and success. It takes work though — great teams don’t just come to be, they’re born from mutual trust, respect, loyalty, and confidence among team members.
There are many ways to boost the team morale. Show appreciation generously, restrict feedback or criticism to direct messages, and insist on creating a culture of respect between members of the group. Furthermore, be sure to celebrate your shared successes to keep everyone’s spirits up.
In the end, group projects boil down to all the members of the group sharing one goal. Together, we can create something extraordinary that resonates far beyond just the task at hand.
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