How to conquer group assignments

In high school when a teacher announces group work is to be done, it is almost a guarantee that half of the students in the class will turn to their best friends and give them “the look”. The look that says without words “you’re my partner”or “you’re in my group.”

During one of my first tutorials at university, the class was faced with the prospect of a group assignment. I looked around – I knew NO ONE! In the end, I got into a group of three and the rest is history. I think the three of us did a pretty good job of working together BUT it is always difficult to find balance among different personalities and different work ethics. In my opinion, each person usually fits the mould of a certain type of team member.

The control-freak: This is the person who instantly takes control of the work. They know what they want to do and how they want to do it, and will do everything in their power to make it happen.

It is important to remind this person that it is a group assignment and everyone needs/wants to have an equal say in how it is done. They may have great ideas but a bad, controlling attitude – you must encourage the good side to make it shine!

The whatever-er: Whatever.” “I don’t mind.” “It’s up to you.” These three statements are likely to come out of the mouth of the whatever-er (yes, I made that label up). This person does some work but they aren’t willing to share their own opinions or ideas. This places more responsibility on other team members and makes it difficult for decisions to be made.

Give them RESPONSIBILITY. If they feel like everyone values their ideas and decision-making, they will give more to the group. By handing over responsibility to this person, they are forced into a situation where they must think for themselves. 

The lazy one: The person who does nothing, or appears to be doing something but in reality is not. It can be very frustrating to have a person like this in your group!

If it gets to the point where their laziness is affecting the group work and potentially your grades, you need to say something. Sternly tell them that if they do not get their act together, everyone is going to get a lower mark. If you also show or try to subtly remind this person how much work everyone else is putting in, they should feel pressured to also participate.

The overall good team member: If you’re lucky, everyone in your group will be a great team member. The work is shared out evenly; everyone puts in equal effort, listens to one another’s ideas and gets the assignment done!

You don’t need to do anything but be grateful you have a fantastic team!

A big part of university is learning how to work in a group. Do your best to be a team player, whatever the situation or whoever you are working with, and hopefully you will bring out the best attributes of your group members. It’s also a skill that will get you far in the workplace too!

Jemma

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