How to Make the Most Out of a Group Project
We come to college, each pursuing our future. We travel different paths, live different lives, and take different classes. Yet there’s one thing that brings us together… one opinion we share… that group projects are a nightmare!
Ok, so I’m being a bit overdramatic. The truth is, group projects aren’t that bad (no, honest!). In fact, I’ve come to enjoy them. I’ve been assigned a good deal of group projects as a graphic design major. With each experience, I’ve learned something new and improved how I tackle the challenge.
While I used to dread group assignments, I’ve come to appreciate them. Being in a group can be a huge advantage if you know how to function as a team. Through this blog article, I hope to share what I’ve learned about collaborating with others, and how you can come to enjoy it. Before we can learn to love group projects, however, we need to address why we don’t.
Regardless of your major, you’re bound to run into a group project. They are the perfect way to prepare us for the future, where we’ll be working alongside fellow employees and employers. They also teach us valuable life skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. Nevertheless, there’s a reason when a teacher announces this kind of assignment, it’s usually followed by groans.
When a project’s first announced, I like to visualize my group working together perfectly. We’re the Avengers (I call Iron Man!), each playing a part in defeating the evil which is our graphic design final. Sounds great, right? Clearly, you’ve never seen Captain America: Civil War. Ultimately, we end up fighting each other, and the project gets destroyed in our wake.
While it’s true, group projects are a breeding ground for disaster, I’ve devised a foolproof plan. Using this blog article as a guide, you’re sure to make the most out of your group project and prevent the mass-destruction that comes with multiple students working together!
Who Ya Gonna Call?
After you’re assigned your group members, IMMEDIATELY work out how you’ll keep in touch. You need a way to contact each other and have group discussions. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can get to work. If you don’t do this immediately, you risk the slacker of the group disappearing into the void and the bossy one stealing the entire project (and all the credit). If you can contact your group members, they’ll be less likely to leave you out or leave everything on you.
You should exchange phone numbers (or at the very least Snapchat usernames). The best way to organize your group is to make a shared Google Drive or try out a free project-management website. This is so you can share and keep track of each other’s work. Have at least two ways to get ahold of everyone! That way, if you’re in a pickle, you can send a simple text and have the entire group at your service!
Now that you can keep in touch, establish your first group meeting. While it can be tempting to assign roles and simply break off, everyone fending for themselves until it’s time to turn it all in, this kind of undermines the whole point of a “group” project. Not to mention, all of your hard work could be thrown out the window if someone doesn’t do their part.
You should try to meet periodically. Even if it’s just to communicate for a couple of minutes and check in with your teammates. This assures you’re all on the same page and are each taking part in the project. It’s best to meet in person, but this can be hard to make work with everyone’s schedules. Video chatting through Zoom or having a conference call are great alternatives if you can’t meet face-to-face.
You should share your weekly progress and run through your agenda each meeting. This includes what everyone is currently working on and what still needs doing. For your first meeting, you won’t have much to present yet. Instead, follow this next step!
Break the Ice!
You should use your first meeting to get to know each other. Even if you’re already familiar with one another, it doesn’t hurt to start the project off on friendly, sociable terms. You’ll feel more committed to the project if you’re committed to your team, and you’ll be less afraid to share ideas. Don’t worry about immediately assigning work. Instead, get organized and get acquainted with your group and the project.
What are you worried about? What are you looking forward to? Discuss these questions and share past experiences. This helps you form a bond, sort out any initial confusion, and figure out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve gotten to know each other, you can better assign responsibilities.
To really make the most of being part of a group, come up with a team name! You can even make a little cheer to say before meetings!
Remember that first impressions are important. This first meeting can determine how well the group works together. If you’re reading this, you’re likely the one who takes charge. Try not to become a dictator. Instead, embrace your teammates’ ideas and try to get everyone involved. The whole group should get a say in important project decisions.
That being said, remember to be assertive. Don’t let yourself get backed into a corner. You shouldn’t have to fear being left out or forced into a part you don’t want to play. Once you’ve started splitting up the work, make it clear what piece is yours. This way, no one tramples on your toes or throws their work on your shoulders at the last minute.
Break It Up!
Finally, you can appoint roles. Break the entire project into tasks and assign them based on each of your strengths and weaknesses. Give everyone in your group an equal amount of work (including yourself!)
You’ll still want to start off collaborating. For example, for my graphics final, we all worked together until we settled on the logo and our concept, then we broke off to tackle individual tasks. Even after that, we would ask for each other’s opinions and help one another out. If you’re ahead on your part, help whoever’s behind. In a group project, you’re accountable for your teammate’s work as much as your own.
Assigning pieces of the project to each group member will get the project done much faster than trying to do the entire thing together. For one, you’d wind up arguing over each step. It’s better to let everyone do their part and stick to making suggestions. As long as you keep communicating, your project will feel cohesive.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes you just get a bad group. Despite following the plan above, some people will refuse to cooperate. This is especially true for the ones that disappear, leaving everyone else to do their work. Welcome to the real world. Even in the workforce, you’re going to have to deal with this. It’s your job to make it work. You can do this! Don’t let anyone drag you down. Be the better person and give the project your best shot. At the very least, you’ve gained experience and overcome a difficult challenge.
While there’s a chance you simply won’t get along, group conflict can usually be traced back to these main issues: poor communication, micromanagement, and lack of trust. Following the plan outlined in this article, you can hopefully avoid these common errors and make the most out of your group project! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting at the Avengers tower.
Mild-mannered student by day, writer by night... but typically by day, I’m Bailey Werner, current junior and graphic design major at Fort Hays State University. With a passion for storytelling that stemmed from 3rd grade writing hour, I’ve been crafting worlds and characters as a hobby for over a decade. Now, as a part-time content creator for the school, I’m living out my dream of writing professionally. If I’m not in my room reading, gaming, or making art, you can find me at the lake. I strongly believe in the power of storytelling, and I’ll continue to use my writing skills after graduation, in my work as a graphic designer.