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Ten tips to help you tackle group projects

February 28, 2020

You flip through your course syllabus to the mark break down to find the one task that all students dread: Group Projects. Below are some things that I do that help me tackle group projects without having to sacrifice my sanity.

Get acquainted with your group members and plan a meet up

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I like to start off a group project on a friendly note with a quick and informal introduction to decide on a time and location to meet up outside of class that works with everyone. I’ve found booking a study room in the library to be a great quiet and private space to meet and work on group projects.

Exchange contact information and form a group chat

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I find that deciding on a platform that works best for group communication so that everyone stays in the loop is very helpful. Group chats are a great space to discuss project ideas, pose any questions that may arise, brainstorm or even provide deadline reminders. In my experience, Facebook messenger or WhatsApp seem to be popular and convenient options. 

Ensure everyone is familiar with the requirements of the project

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I’ve found going over the marking scheme or rubric together as a group to be extremely beneficial in starting a project off on the right foot. I like to start a document which outlines all topics that must be covered within the project. Then, review this with my group members to assign group roles with everyone’s input to ensure that the workload is distributed equally. This allows everyone an opportunity to hopefully end up working on a topic that they will enjoy or that best highlights their strengths! An added benefit is that this document keeps everyone in the group accountable to the role they signed up for and ensures that all aspects of the project will be completed. 

Set timelines and deadlines 

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Cramming before a deadline alone is stressful enough, so one can assume coordinating while cramming in a group isn’t ideal. One way of setting timelines and deadlines is by outlining any key dates in the document I mentioned above which describes the project requirements. That way, all of the important administrative information is in one place that everyone has access to. I like to emphasize the project’s due date and outline a timeline that has been agreed upon by the group of when certain tasks should be done by to stay on track. 

Agree on what should be done if someone doesn’t comply with the group rules

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Having uncooperative group members is unfortunate but it happens. To avoid this, I think it’s important to be clear on how the situation will be handled if a member is not keeping up with their portion of the work. I find that encouraging proactive communication is helpful! This can be achieved by simply checking in with the members of your group by sending a message in the group chat every once in a while. That way if something is going on with a group member and they are not able to meet their deadline, they feel comfortable to tell the group in advance so next steps can be identified.

Use Google Drive to create documents

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Google Drive promotes collaboration by allowing multiple individuals to work on a project in real-time with each other. I like Google Drive because there is no merging of information that has to happen, any work that is to be completed can be done all in one place. 

 I find this extremely helpful since you can track changes that are made to various documents and presentations while viewing what the other members are doing as you simultaneously complete your work. Plus there is a convenient auto-save feature which makes sure that none of the group’s hard work goes missing! 

Ensure everyone takes a read through of the project

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This can be helpful in many types of projects, but I’ve found it especially helpful when writing group papers. If individually each member goes through the project, provides feedback and adds their edits, it makes the project more cohesive when tying all of the individual parts together. Things like content, grammar, punctuation and citations also get checked repeatedly which is a bonus!

Give constructive criticism 

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Everyone has different learning abilities and application styles, which I feel is important to be mindful of in a group setting. If something isn’t done the way I might have done it, I don’t think that telling a peer that they “did a bad job” is the way to go, it’s not constructive feedback. Instead, I’d try telling them what they did well and what they could improve on. That way the feedback is productive and gives the individual some guidance if they are in need of it. If they’re really struggling, I would extend a helping hand and spend some extra time with them if I feel that I am capable of doing so. If I don’t feel like I can offer the guidance that is necessary, I might refer this group member to the professor, a TA or one of the Academic Support Services offered on campus for additional assistance. 

Make time to practice 

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This is applicable to group projects that are also presentations. I’ve found from experience that it is helpful to practice presenting to get a feel for what a full run-through of the presentation will be like. In the past, I’ve booked study rooms in the library or even done a table read style rehearsal with my group members in a casual environment to go over the presentation. This is one of the best times to go over last-minute details and practice timing how long the presentation will take in its entirety if there is an assigned time limit. 

Seek intervention from your professor or TA if needed

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In my experience, seeking out assistance from the professor or TAs if needed can only help, not hurt. After all, these individuals are experts on the content and will be your evaluators! Whether it be about the project content or issues with group members, the course professor or TAs are a great source to consult with if any difficulties arise. 

If you’re looking for more support after reading this post, Student Life has a Stride Learning Skills workshop about Putting the U in Group Work that you can register for on the Student Life Portal. Good luck on your group projects!