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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