Group work is a necessary part of college. Collaborative learning is becoming a central element in the educational system, and many school projects depend on solid team effort to be successful. Some students embrace group work, while others despise it. Here are some tips on how to handle the dynamics inside a group so that you end up with a better grade and a positive group experience.
Expect Strong Personalities in Your Group
Professors are fond of assigning group projects. Sometimes, the professors would let the students choose their own group, but more often than not, they choose the group members themselves. You’re lucky if you end up with teammates that are easy to work with, but unless you have total control of choosing your group, be prepared to have members that will make life more difficult for everyone during the course of the project.
Focus on Ideas Rather Than Personalities
The key to dealing with potentially problematic members is to focus more on their ideas than their delivery of these ideas. More often than not, we are blinded by the personality of an individual and can’t see anything beyond that. A negative group member may have ideas that seem viable but no one wants to try it because the person delivering the ideas is unlikable. On the other hand, a personable group member may be contributing little to the project but everyone wants the person around because of the fun he or she brings to the group.
List every idea that comes from the members and take note of the person who shared a particular idea just in case you need to ask follow up questions. Be objective when discussing suggestions with your group members. Always present the pros and cons of a particular idea in a way that the members can judge for themselves which ones would work well for the group without any consideration of who pitched the idea in the first place.
Share the Credit
If you’re the leader of the group, it’s easy to take credit for everything the group achieved. After all, being the leader could mean you dealt with every aspect of the work regardless of the number of people involved. But always give credit where credit is due. Don’t hog the spotlight when your project gets raves and praise from your professors, and always mention that it was the whole team’s effort that made the project work. You never know when you will have to work with the same group again, and you want them to remember you as the leader who was gracious enough to give everyone a chance to shine.
Create a Sense of Shared Identity
If you expect to work with your group for a long time, it’s always helpful to create a group identity to make each member feel that you all have common goals. Create a group name, wear the same color during meetings, or wear identical wrist bands. There’s always a risk of members running off and doing their own thing when the pressure is on, but if your group identity is strong enough, you will most likely stick together as a group despite the challenges.
Photo Credit: Arkansas Baptist College Buffalos