The Plight of Group Projects & How to Overcome It

Photo by Carmen Pullella '16 | Group projects, while good preparation for the world beyond Smith, can pose challenges for participants.

Photo by Carmen Pullella ’16 | Group projects, while good preparation for the world beyond Smith, can pose challenges for participants.

 

Hira Humayun ’17
Features Editor

While some students might see group projects as means of dividing the workload and sharing responsibilities, other see the projects as one of the most stressful parts of the semester. Sometimes conflicting schedules don’t leave time for a group meeting, sometimes ideas clash, sometimes group members fail to communicate and sometimes certain members pull more weight than others. We can’t escape these often tedious but nonetheless crucial parts of our class work; they’re inevitable. As straining as group work can get, it is important to remember that it prepares us not only for life after Smith but also for everyday situations – social and academic – where we come across people we might not see eye-to-eye with. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to coordinate a group project:

Communicate: One of the most frustrating parts of working in groups is not being on the same page. Keep everyone in the loop; if you can’t make it to a meeting or have to cancel last minute, let your group members know. It may be inconvenient for them to have to change their schedules around or to continue working in your absence, but this way they will not be left wondering and waiting for you to respond.  Communication is crucial and helps everyone save time and energy. Create a Facebook group, email thread or instant messaging group to stay up-to-date on everyone’s schedules and availabilities, and be sure to check your messages often!

Respect the time of scheduled meetings: Try to stick to the times you have decided upon as a group. The earlier you set regular days to meet, the better. If some unforeseen circumstances comes up, notify your group well in advance. It is important to fix a schedule and respect it the way you would a regular class. Especially for group projects where the entire group receives a single grade, it is crucial to be involved and responsible. Your actions not only affect your own grade, but also the grades of your group members.

Do the work assigned to you: Delegate tasks and carry them out. Everyone has their own workload and their own way of handling that workload. Once agreed upon, stick to the work you have been assigned. While it may be tempting to ask a fellow group member to help you out with your portion, don’t forget that they have their own portion to do and it might compromise the quality of work produced. If you fall into the habit of asking group members to help you, you may become reliant on them. Everyone is responsible for their own job, and if you fail to complete yours or demand too much of other members, disputes can come up, which will slow down the process of getting the work done.

Collaborate: Sometimes not everyone has similar understandings of how the project is expected to turn out. Try going to your professor as a group to clear up any misunderstandings. If everyone still has differing ideas, try to merge them and then vote on them. This would allow everyone’s input. Keep in mind however, to be ready to compromise when you can. If your fellow group member puts forth an idea that makes sense, do not be too quick to shoot it down simply because it wasn’t your idea. Be open to other people’s ideas. Group work is designed to teach you understand other viewpoints and ideas, and the best way to do that is to implement them.

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