4 tips to survive group assignments

Image of students sitting in a group

Working in a group is a large part of your academic ‘career’. The good news is these sometimes frustrating team situations assist in learning negotiation and communication skills, which all employers are super keen on.

But just because something is good for us doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, or that we will automatically enjoy doing it.

Lucky for you, we have a few tips and tricks to make your group work as drama free as having a sea-monkey as a pet.

1. Start with introductions and set some ground rules

It takes time for a group of individuals to become a team. Meet your team members as soon as possible and get to know each other.

Decide how the group will communicate. Are you going have face-to-face meetings or communicate online through email or group discussion forums?

Whether you meet in person or virtually, create a schedule of meetings with agendas. Decide on team roles so that everyone keeps on track.

And remember, play nicely with others. Be inclusive and treat each other with respect and courtesy.

2. Understand the assignment requirements

Do you understand what the assignment is asking you to do? Take the time to analyse your assignment topic. Identify specific tasks and estimate the time required to complete them.

Once you have done this, you will need to prioritise the tasks set deadlines, and allocate the tasks to team members.

This will ensure work is divided fairly and effectively. Use your meetings to regularly review progress and revise deadlines.

3. Use technology to collaborate

Get to know your technology. There are so many technologies available to help you collaborate online with your teammates.

From discussion boards, wikis and instant messaging to email, social media and Google Docs.

Make sure you are an active online participant: read, respond and contribute to the group’s postings.

4. Use effective strategies to overcome problems

Problems may arise within a group for a variety of reasons. They may result from unequal efforts from team members, disagreements about group objectives, clash of personalities, simple misunderstandings and straight-out differences of opinion.

Any issues need to be dealt with promptly and decisively. Learn to effectively manage conflict so you can facilitate discussion and come to a resolution. Contact the lecturer or tutor if a problem is not able to be resolved.

Group projects: a survival guide

During university, you’re likely to run into a few assignments that require group work. There are many benefits to working in a group, such as shared knowledge, relationship building and brainstorming new ideas. However, there can be some difficulties.

Don’t fret though! Griffith University student, Azaria Bell, has some tips on how to make group assignments an effective, drama free experience. These include:

Start with intros

Take the time to get to know your group members. Learn their names, what they’re studying and what they’re passionate about. From here you can discuss your shared goals for the assignment and identify any strengths or weaknesses that each member has. This is a great way to know what sections of the assignment to allocate moving forward.

Set your scope

Decide on the angle you’ll be taking for your assignment. Make sure you reach a conclusion that everyone is happy with by having a discussion and making compromises when necessary. Based on the strengths and weaknesses you identified earlier, have people volunteer to take on different sections of the assignment.

Alternatively, if there’s a lot of indecision, allocate one person to be the group leader. The group leader can be in charge of allocating sections without drama.

If you feel uncomfortable with the work you’ve been given, or if you feel like you’ve been given too much or too little, speak up. Bottling these feelings up and becoming resentful is a large source of arguments in group assignments and they can be easily avoided. When delegating tasks, establish deadlines and due dates for certain sections.

Have weekly meetings

The best way to tackle a group assignment is to have weekly meetings and allocate smaller sections every week. Choose a regular timeslot that works well for everyone to meet up, discuss and evaluate the progress of your assignment.

If physical meetings aren’t possible, use online platforms such as Skype and cloud services such as Dropbox to share work. Based on the group discussion you have in your weekly meeting, allocate further tasks and so on.

When you’re establishing the tasks that need to be finished as well as the deadlines that go with them, try to make sure that your assignment is going to be finished at least a week before the due date. This gives you time to reflect as a group and ensure that everything flows perfectly.

Keep on track

If personal problems do arise, remember that the main goal of this assignment is to get the best grade possible. Ensure that everyone is happy with the work that they’re doing and openly discuss any issues. Always treat your group members with respect and for any issues that can’t be resolved as a group always speak to your tutors.