Here is an appropriate representation of my feelings towards group work:
I genuinely hate it, and I’ve had to do a couple of group projects every year I’ve been at uni. Part of this utter dread comes from the fact that I’m bossy and I’m a perfectionist, the other part comes from being with people, or one person in particular, who never did anything and was just the worst. And I was with them all the time! Whenever I actively tried to get out of group work with them it would still happen, like I was being punished for something terrible I did in a past life.
My vast experience tackling this type of person — and dealing with my own bossiness — means that the last group project I did went . . . really, really well, actually. It was a pleasure to put together, and my partner and I got a really stellar grade out of it. Everything was done straight down the middle and we both had a great time, even if it was hard work.
So now you get to learn in the best way you can learn something: from another person’s anguish.
Make sure you’ve got enough time (and enough space).
It takes longer to put a presentation together than you think. On paper it’s research, planning the slides, putting the slides together, a practice or two, and then that’s it. But in my experience it’s taken at least two meet-ups for like . . . three or four hours each. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time before the deadline to get everything polished and practiced, and make sure you’ve got a decent place to work in.
There’s a lot of group work areas in the library, or you can book a room. If you can’t get onto campus or you’d be more comfortable working from home, make sure you’re using the right tools to communicate with your partners: Skype, Google Chat, and Google Docs are all good choices.
Play to your strengths.
Like I said, I’m bossy. I think that’s the biggest reason why I don’t like group work — there’s a lot I’m not in control of. The contributions of other people, the quality of their input, that sort of thing. In that last group project, I deliberately took a step back; I trusted my partner, and it paid off. It hasn’t always, but this time it did — because they were strong in places that I wasn’t. We worked well because we let each other take the lead in different areas.
If there’s someone in your group who is an absolute genius when it comes to introductions and conclusions, let them do that. If someone knows all of PowerPoint’s secrets and can put the thing together properly, let them. Some people will be better at research, some people will be better at presenting, and some people are better at keeping the group together, motivated, and on task. It’ll save arguments, make your life easier, and hopefully, everyone will be contributing the same amount.
One last thing: sometimes the people you’re not as close to are the ones that you’ll work better with. Don’t be put out if you’re in a group with people you don’t know (it can sometimes work out for the best!).
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