Surviving Group Assignments

In a world of procrastination, laziness, and conflicting schedules, how in the heck do you survive group assignments?

Samantha Starkey

October 13, 2014

Surviving Group Assignments Surviving Group Assignments

Group assignments are the worst. Give me a ten-paper paper to write, a test to study for—anything other than a group assignment. Please.

As a college student, you’re going to be assigned group projects, and probably at least a dozen of them throughout your whole academic career.

I understand the logic behind these group assignments, I do: out in the real world, when you’re working your real job, you’re going to be tasked with projects that’ll require you to work collaboratively with other people. It’s a huge part of the modern working world, and college tries to prepare you for that.

But in college, you’ll come across many students who don’t care about their grades or that class they’re only taking to fulfill a general-education requirement or your own personal goal of getting into graduate school. In a world of procrastination, laziness, and conflicting schedules, how in the heck do you survive group assignments?

I know that I myself usually end up being that one person who does all the work because the others are slacking—and it’s frustrating and stressful and, quite frankly, unfair. What choices do you have when your group mates are being unresponsive and uncooperative and you just want to get a good grade?

Here’s some advice on how to handle group projects from a seasoned group member:

Define tasks & set up deadlines.

The very first thing you should do when you meet with your group is to come up with a list of tasks and divide them up evenly amongst the group members.

This will ensure that each member is responsible for contributing something concrete to the group’s assignment, as oftentimes problems arise when multiple people are tasked with completing one scarily large goal (which lets members believe that it’s someone else’s responsibility, not their own).

Setting deadlines—especially quick deadlines (e.g., weekly), as to ward off procrastination—will also aide in getting tasks completed on time so that the group can remain on track.

Meet in Person.

In today’s world of text messaging, email, and Facebook, it is tempting to try to complete an entire group assignment via Google docs.

However, meeting in person will put greater responsibility on all members—they will have to show up to the meeting, they will have to dedicate time to this project, they will have to prove that they’ve been contributing to the overall work load. It’s much easier and much more tempting to slack off when you don’t have to meet with your group members face-to-face.

Be firm.

Nobody likes to be the bad guy, which of course is how you feel you come off when you nudge or pester your group to stay on track. But it has to be done.

Be friendly but firm when reminding group members of upcoming deadlines, and if somebody in your group is slacking, talk to them directly. It helps nobody if you sit around and brood over the fact that your group members aren’t pulling their own weight. Never do their work for them without talking to them first.

Evaluate your teammates fairly.

Oftentimes at the completion of the assignment, a professor will ask that you evaluate your group mates in terms of how much they contributed to the overall project.

Be honest and fair in your evaluation, whether you were the person who put forth the most effort or the least. The members who slacked obviously deserve lower grades than the members who put forth the effort, but your professor won’t know this unless your evaluation is accurate.

If the professor doesn’t ask for a group evaluation yet you feel that your group should have one, you should meet with your professor outside of class to discuss. It is also a good idea to give feedback to your professor in terms of how well the assignment lent itself to a group-project format.

Group projects are all about teamwork. If you’re putting forth your best effort, it’s fair to expect your group mates to do so as well.

In college, unfortunately, these types of projects don’t always go over smoothly—and it shouldn’t be that one or two people are doing all the work, while the rest receive the credit. If you’ve always dreaded group assignments before, hopefully these tips can help you out the next time you’re faced with collaboration-by-force.

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