Your teacher mentioned it at the beginning of the semester.
You probably brushed it off but it always comes back when you least expect it: group projects.
These are two of the most dreaded words that can come out of a teacher’s mouth, but almost every student will face one, or many, group projects throughout their college experience.
Group projects are intended to develop your leadership abilities while also providing an opportunity to show you are capable of working as part of a team.
With these seven tips, group projects no longer need to be something to stress out about or hastily throw together the night before it’s due.
1. Choose group members wisely
If your teacher allows you to choose your own project members, do so with consideration. If you know your friend has three jobs, an internship and a five class schedule, this probably makes your friend a poor partner to work with assuming a group project will likely not be a main priority. If you don’t know anybody in the class, I suggest some light Facebook stalking and striking up conversations with surrounding peers.
2. Figure out the best means of communication
The group has been assembled. There are a myriad of ways to communicate and, as a team, it needs to be determined which ways work best for your particular group. Emails, phone calls, Facebook groups and Tweets are all great, but I highly recommend creating a Gmail account and using Google Documents.
All group members are able to collaborate on the same document simultaneously, which may even eliminate the need for some group meetings. No matter which means your group chooses, make sure to have a list of everyone’s name, email and phone number sent out to each member. You will regret not doing this if, while struggling to put the project together the night before it’s due, you realize nobody wrote the conclusion.
3. Set check-ins and deadlines
Assign each group member tasks they are responsible to complete. If you create periodic check-ins throughout the project, you will be able to ensure every member is contributing – or not contributing. These check-ins let the group come together, share their findings and discuss any problems or new ideas. Deadlines are meant to establish priorities for what needs to get done first and help eliminate panic caused by leaving work for the last minute. Always have everything in writing to avoid confusion or the frantic, “I didn’t know that was my job,” conversation.
4. Take the lead
Don’t fear stepping up and being the team coordinator or leader. If you get stuck with a group full of slackers, this is the perfect opportunity to expand your leadership skills and take control. This doesn’t mean being the person who does all the work, but ensuring everything gets done on time.
Leaders also facilitate communication between members and help keep members on track. If you find yourself in the leadership role, keep an open mind and listen to everyone’s opinions. The best leaders can find a compromise that all group members can agree with.
5. Give a time cushion at the end of the project
People get sick, documents get deleted, group members are irresponsible. For the unexpected and unaccounted for issues, set an earlier date than the actual due date for the project to be completed. By giving the team a few extra days as a time cushion, catastrophes and dilemmas can be solved by the time of the teacher’s due date.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor for help
Asking for help does not show weakness – it proves to professors that you care about the outcome of the project and are willing to try alternative solutions to achieve success. If your research hypothesis is failing or someone is not pulling their weight, have the courage to ask your teacher for help with the next steps. As educators, pfofessors are full of guidance that you can use to move forward. After all, the teacher assigned the project, so why not pick their brain for more knowledge?
7. Stay positive
Although time consuming and at times, stressful, group projects are beneficial for providing realistic examples of what your future internship or career may entail. Coming up with an entire media strategy for a local pizza spot may later help with your prospective job in the advertising field or the public service announcement project can assist with your future in broadcast journalism. By focusing on the positives instead of the negatives, you give yourself the chance to learn the most out of each project and apply it to the real world.
Group projects don’t have to be scary or cause you angst. They can be conquered and by following these tips and tricks, you can ensure your next experience will be one of your best.
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