1. Designate a leader, productive workers, and an editorEach member of your group should have a clear role. Ensure you have one student who will make decisions and divide tasks among group members. Then, identify several people who are known to produce strong work and do not mind that they are not in charge. Finally, select someone who excels at proofreading/polishing final products. Filling each role, no matter how large or small your group, will help streamline any project.
2. Set clear deadlines as a groupThis does not solely mean completing your work by the due date! Successful group projects utilize small goals with differing deadlines. Your group members may have schedule conflicts, so make sure to spend some time at the beginning of the process deciding when each project component will be started, finished, and edited. Try to hold your group accountable for each of these goals—if you do, you are more likely to avoid last-minute stress.
3. Recognize when to meet and when to work individuallyMany people believe that group projects involve continually working together in a single room. This is untrue, especially in light of new communication options like Skype. Nevertheless, the principles of group work remain the same: if you do not have your work done, do not meet yet. Instead, use this time to complete your goals, and then share your work. This is also true of a group meeting that is no longer productive. If you are not your finishing your tasks together, take a team break and work on your own until those tasks are, in fact, achieved.
4. Be honestIf you do not have your part done, or if you will not have time to complete your portion before the deadline, be honest about it. This does not mean that you can fail to contribute. It means that you have to be more considerate of your group members’ time. If you are causing distractions or falling behind, admit to it and address it as a group. If you are uncomfortable with this situation, consider seeking the help of a facilitator (such as your instructor). Additionally, if you believe that you are doing all the work and you feel overwhelmed as a result, be clear about your expectations for everyone else. Group dynamics involve a wide array of factors, but many of them start with you. Whether you are the best person to include in a group, or whether you need to apply yourself more often to truly excel, group work involves a great deal of introspection to keep your emotions and expectations in check. If you are running into a problem or two that you feel you cannot handle, always look for feedback and guidance from your teacher.
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.
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