Group projects may not be everyone’s favourite part about school. We all know groups can be frustrating, especially when others don’t pull their weight, don’t understand their part or the assignment, and when others aren’t as cooperative. These projects can make your grade or break your grade. Some people get so invested into group projects, the project may end in tears, arguments and even failures. By being prepared for the assignment ahead of time, there is a better chance of success and a better chance of cooperating with your team members.
1. Make a template of what the project outlines.
- Templates are a great tool to utilize when deciding what to do and what needs to be done for an assignment. Templates would include the different parts of the assignment and who would be doing the part, the deadline of the assignment including any personal deadlines, all group meetup dates and any other criteria the assignment entails, e.g. team evaluations.
- This may be right time to choose a team leader, who would then ensure everyone is meeting deadlines and getting their parts done. Team leaders aren’t right for every type of group and is up to the group to decide if one is needed or not.
2. Determine everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Knowing what every person in the group can do and is comfortable with can be a huge advantage. Communication is key at this point, and everyone in the group must be willing to share in order to have an effective group. Determine what strength each person have and which part would go with that strength – if the member is comfortable with that part. Try not to pair someone with a part that isn’t something they are too good at, unless there is another person assisting on that certain part.
- Sometimes there are no members with strengths for a certain part, there are a few options here. Either someone takes the part and tries it–a bit risky. Another option would be a group effort on the part, including group sharing of ideas and working on that part together instead of separately. The other option would be to have everyone do the part separately, not fully, then come together and decide on which idea is the best.
3. Ensure everyone understands the project/assignment.
- This accompanies knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Before starting, read through the assignment as a group, discussing each part to ensure full understanding of what is being asked and what is needed to be done. If there is a part that is not understood, ask the professor or other groups. Each member may take different approaches to different problems and see things in a different perspective; ensure everyone is on the same page.
4. Make sure everyone understands at least two components of the assignment.
- Understanding the assignment as a group may be easy, but once a member gets on their own and has to figure out the problem by themselves, there may be some difficulty. To ensure there is no problems, no free riders and an assignment that is done on time; ensure everyone understands at least one other part besides their own to help others out.
- This is also helpful if a member is stuck on something and just needs some encouragement. It also saves time for everyone who would otherwise have to go look at the assignment again and try to understand it, to help the other member.
5. Deal out the parts.
- Knowing everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and preferences. As well as having gone through the assignment, ensuring everyone understands and is on the same page. Now is the time to deal out the parts to everyone.
- If there are more parts than members, some members will have to double up. If there are an uneven number of parts, ensure everyone tries to have the same workload. This may not always happen.
6. Make a timeline/deadlines.
- After everything has been done, go back to your template and fill in the personal deadlines for the parts. Some parts may need to be done before others can start, or all parts may be done at the same time. Ensure there is sufficient time for each member to get their parts done, especially if there are multiple parts per member. Allow a sufficient time before the deadline of the assignment for editing and revising purposes. My personal preference would be a week to four days in advance of the assignment deadline.
Ensure everyone is communicating, cooperating and constructive. If difficulties do arise, talk it out, hear both sides of a story and then decide things in a calm manner. Always ask for assistance if you need it, don’t wait till your deadline to tell your group you don’t know or understand something!