Let’s talk about group projects. I feel like everyone I have heard from has a negative opinion, and yet, we continue to do them–because we have to. But not only that, we are meant to learn about collaboration and teamwork. Somehow, though, we don’t change the way we operate in them; we continue to put things off even though we know that if someone else in the group were to do so, we would be incredibly stressed. I am guilty of it too. The worst, I would have to say, is the projects done the night before, and even if you were prepared, you are somehow dragged down by your group because they were not. We can’t control how our group member chooses to go about their portions, so how can we actually survive a group project without all of the stress? These are some tips that you can use to make your group projects go a little bit smoother:
1. Assign roles
This is a key part that I am sure you have already been doing, how else would you prevent everyone from doing the same thing? But maybe you have been dividing up the work all wrong. For example, if your group projects consist of research, a powerpoint, and a written response, and there are four people in your group, split the research between two people, allow one person to do the powerpoint, and one person can do the written response. This will make it easier instead of letting everyone work on the powerpoint and written response. The goal is to give everyone a job that does not interfere with the jobs of everyone else. This will make everyone responsible for one task and prevent them from relying on someone else to do it for them.
2. Do your part as soon as possible
To prevent any stress, or cause any stress to your group members, do your part as soon as possible. If you have one of the last responsibilities, like a powerpoint or a write-up, then you should try to have this done before the day it is due. Or, if it is an assignment due to Canvas by midnight, at least several hours prior to this. Recently, a member of one of my groups was assigned to do the powerpoint for the project. She had waited until hours before it was due to finish it. At 11 pm, there were still several blank slides and I had other work to do but I couldn’t stop checking in to make sure it was done. In turn, I couldn’t concentrate on my part because I was worried about hers.
3. Choosing your role
For those with Type A personality, it can be particularly stressful to trust people with vital aspects of group projects. Sometimes, we don’t get to pick who we work with, which means you could get an amazing group or a terrible one. If you are worried about the abilities of your group, then take this into account in the part you choose to take in your group. If you feel that the research portion is going to be the most important for the rest of the project, then choose this to allow the rest of the project to go smoothly. Or, maybe the powerpoint is the most important to your professor because you are presenting it to the class. If this is the case, choose the powerpoint so you can ensure it is how you would like it.
4. Check-in on everyone periodically
One way to keep everyone on track without completely taking over the project is to send reminder texts into a group chat. We don’t want to sound like mothers–no condescending messages–so the way you address it has to come across friendly. This also shouldn’t be something you are sending every day; assuming you see them in class, this shouldn’t be necessary. An example could be:
Hi, everyone, I am halfway done with my portion, how is everyone else doing? Is anyone having trouble with their portion?
This shows that you are working on your part, you are not singling anyone out, and you are checking that everyone has what they need to do their part. If for some reason they are not attending classes, you could send this out as a way to collaborate. Collaboration is key, even if you think you are annoying, it will keep people thinking about the project and, hopefully, working on it as well. Send out texts when you are done with your part or when the due date is close, or even when you are having trouble. The important part is to ensure that you are trying to be helpful and not controlling. Everyone does have their own responsibilities, so they may be unable to finish their part as quickly as others.
5. Refrain from jumping in
Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but do you ever feel like jumping in and doing the whole thing yourself? It’s not something we want to do, it’s more so a lack of trust that it will get done if you don’t do so. You should try to avoid helping unless they ask for help or ask if it is okay. Not only could they find it rude that you didn’t trust them to do their part, but you may be expected to do it again in the future. If you do see a group member struggling, ask them if they would like some help with their part–as long as you are able to take on more. Sometimes it is a nice surprise to see someone helped you without having to ask; other times, it may feel like you were prevented from contributing to the group at all.
6. Speak to your professor
Don’t be mad at me for this one. You’re right, no one likes a “snitch”. However, there are times when you should not be expected to carry your entire group to the finish lines. They are made group projects because they are too big for just one person to complete. For that reason, the first step should be reaching out to your group and checking on everyone’s progress. If you are noticed that there are still on or more people who are not contributing, then you may have to speak to your professor and ask for advice. You should not be expected to carry your group, nor should you receive a poor grade for not carrying them. You don’t have to use names, but ask for the professor’s advice on how to handle it, or at least make sure you won’t be receiving a poor grade for something that is not your fault.