Today we’re discussing what a lot of students see as the dreaded, soul-crushing experience of group work. I know a lot of people really, really, really dislike group work and I understand why. There’s usually one person who doesn’t show up or do their part and gives you a lame excuse. I once worked on a group assignment with a guy who would show up, but then literally fall asleep in the back of the room. Although he provided us with endless entertainment (we used to see how many pens we could stuff in his jumper pockets or how many sticky-notes we could stick to his body before he would wake up, he wasn’t very helpful when it came to the assignment. Had we been studying sleeping patterns, this may have been a different story. But guess what? Group work is an important part of uni life, so we need to learn how to make the most of it!
When we are first told we have to take part in a group assignment, our first thought is often ‘Why do group assignments even exist?’
Well… it’s unlikely you’ll ever find a job where you never interact with others. Unless your job is to be the first person to live on the moon or something like that. And when you think about it, a lot of awesome things wouldn’t exist without people working in a group. We wouldn’t have movies, much music, buildings… we’d all essentially be living like Tom Hanks in Castaway, yelling ‘Wiiiiiillllllsssssssooooonnnnnnnnn!’ at a volleyball with a face on it. In fact, we wouldn’t even have this analogy because that movie wouldn’t even exist. So, you see, group work is important.
When assigning the roles in your group, try to pick a job that you’ll enjoy, no matter what time of day it is or how stressed you are. Also, try to pick a role that’s going to help you in the long run. For example, I want to be a journalist, so I try to pick roles that involve writing or talking. And if you’re feeling up to it, challenge yourself! University is a safe place to make mistakes and ask for help, so you should feel comfortable knowing that if you get in a little over your head, you can always ask for a hand.
When you first plan the assignment, make sure everyone’s roles are as clear as possible so there won’t be any overlapping and all the gaps will be filled. It’s also important to communicate when you have a problem! If Disney movies have taught me anything (aside from the fact that I will probably never be a mermaid) it’s that you should always be straight up about how you’re feeling about someone.They might not realise they’re upsetting anyone, so by telling them, they can do something about it. Just make sure you go about it in the nicest way possible. Be gentle and positive in the words you use, and try to remind them of why this assignment, and their contribution, is so important. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you explain to your group that you’re struggling, they may be able to help you, and should be more willing to, considering that your problems affect the group.
Be careful to maintain a balance between your individual role and the ‘working together as a group’ part of the assignment. If you’re the sort of person who has a tendency to take over, then listen up! One of the things you learn by doing group assignments is how to trust others. I know you’re just trying to be caring when you’re looming over your group mates asking them constantly if they’ve written their three paragraphs yet, but they probably won’t see it that way.
A way to do this is to inspire your team mates by reminding them how important the end goal is. For example, if you have a Facebook group for your assignment, every now and then post a reminder of what it’s going to take to get a High Distinction. This will inspire others to do their work and keep you motivated too.
So you see, guys? Working in a group doesn’t have to be horrible! Just remember that the people you’re working with are all in it to reach a common goal. You probably have a lot in common with your team mates and they are there to support you if you need help. Most importantly, you’re learning important teamwork skills that will help you succeed in the workplace.