by Anthony Bianco
One thing that might change when you transition from school to university is the number of group assignments and projects you will need to undertake as part of your studies.
There is a good reason for this kind of group work – employers need and want people who are capable of working within a team environment. This is because group teamwork is required for maintaining interpersonal relationships, effective communication, negotiation skills and problem solving to get things done!
One famous teamwork analogy is the legendary British band, the Beatles – the four individual members together working as a team were much greater than the sum of all their parts, and their solo careers never reached the lofty heights of the group’s music – that’s because they all had different strengths which all contributed to the amazing end result.
You’ll need to work in a team in the real world anyway when you land your first job outside of University, so group assignments will be an insight in how a team should – and shouldn’t – work! A great, collaborative team will create a great assignment, while a dysfunctional team will result in a poor result.
It doesn’t matter what line of study you are undertaking – these tips are applicable across the board. Here are our tips for an effective group assignment experience below:
This sounds like a social event, but it’s actually good to know your team members first before you launch into an assignment because you will probably be randomly grouped with a bunch of strangers. Organise a night out or another meet up in a social surrounding to find out what motivates your team members, their personality types, and how they like to work. This will provide a solid base for Tip 2.
If you plan the how, what, who, where and when well, your group assignment will be a great success.
Create the plan, and then stick to the plan!
If you fail to plan, you will plan to fail – a clear, effective project management approach will make sure each component of the assignment is delivered on time to the agreed quality and quantity, by the right person.
This process should try to be democratic as possible and needs to take into account people’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Plus everyone should be sharing the work load equally. One team member shouldn’t be doing a large chunk of the work whilst another member isn’t contributing much at all.
This step should:
Related to Tip 1, knowing when exactly something is due is critical for delivering the assignment on time. You will need to take into account the tasks that need to be finished before a new one can be started, and tasks that can occur without being dependent on other components.
If you’re able to submit your part of the assignment earlier, that might help in speeding up the rest of the project. Plus if English is your second language, you may want to finish your part early so it can be reviewed and checked (See our tips on how to improve your English).
Always keep in touch with your team members so you keep track of what’s going on.
Group assignments involve working together and individually. And with today’s technology, it’s easier to stay in touch throughout the group assignment process.
Try setting up a private Facebook group as you’ll be able to keep in touch regularly to discuss aspects of the group assignment. Other ways to stay in touch include using Slack, Skype or Facebook Messenger.
However, nothing beats regular face to face contact and communication – a consistent schedule of group meetings in person should be implemented from the beginning of the assignment, right up until submission so that issues are communicated clearly.
Like with our tips to deal with exam stress, try meeting up in different environments each time, such as a local park or coffee shop so things don’t become stale.
If you or others in your group assignment team become stuck, don’t stay there for too long! Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off each other to work through a stumbling block, or ask the relevant tutor or lecturer for advice or direction.
Throughout the group assignment, a regular review process should be implemented to track how things are progressing. This includes agreement by everyone in the group that one step has been completed so that the next one can commence. You may wish to engage the help of your tutor if you have one, or maybe talk to your friends who are in other groups to see what’s working for them, and what isn’t.
When it comes to submission time, if English is your second language, have a native English speaker in your group do the final proof read for spelling and grammar.
Group assignments aren’t all about work – once you’ve submitted your assignment, meet up again and celebrate that you achieved all of this together!
Group assignments are also a great opportunity to make new friends plus you can draw on the strengths of other people to improve your skills. Plus this regular form of teamwork will help you prepare for the workforce when you finally graduate as you will have to deal with people with different strengths and weaknesses, personalities and cultures.