Schools across Australia continue to emphasise group assignments in classrooms, despite the entire student body throwing up their hands in collective disgust. Collaboration in the workplace is a reality that young people do need to prepare for, but it remains an utter shit show whenever students are asked to emulate it for group projects. From slackers and micro-managing assholes to perpetually incompatible schedules, there is always something in the way of job well done.
Thankfully, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to surviving those dreaded group assignments that go beyond the obvious ‘assign everyone a role!’ advice.
1. Be friendly
You’re not colleagues, or managers and workers–you’re peers and fellow students, so act like it. Y’all are more likely to be productive and communicate with each other when everyone is on friendly terms. It will also make the whole experience more pleasant if you’re getting along and making jokes and maybe even getting beers afterwards. Spend some time in the beginning to get to know each other and to find out each other’s interests and strengths; it will be useful down the line.
2. Set a group deadline before the actual one
This one is from somebody who always leaves assignments to the last minute and ends up in groups full of other people that do the same: you just can’t do this for group projects. When you’ve got an individual assignment, you know the status of each element, punishing only yourself when you stay up until 5am to finish it. If a bunch of you do this for a group assignment, you’ll end up reading disparate elements hours before the deadline and as you try to compile a coherent assignment out of them, you’ll realise parts are incomplete, not up to your standards, or just plain wrong. Set soft deadlines throughout the term for your group to read over what everyone has made, allowing for feedback and refinement.
3. Trust your group members
After you’ve turned these group members into new friends and agreed on deadlines for the project, the best thing you can do is trust them to get the work done. Being an overbearing nagger, especially when you’re just another student, can really affect productivity and conversely, you want everyone to feel empowered to do their own work. Even if you think what they come up with for the first deadline is shit, you then need to trust that they’ll take on the feedback and at least improve it a little. Don’t micro-manage, and don’t take it upon yourself to do everyone’s work because you don’t trust them–you have to learn to let go a little bit.
4. Address slackers
If you’ve exhausted your trust and patience and somebody continually fails to deliver, it’s time to address it. Sometimes the best thing you can do at first is call them out to their face, telling them that they need to contribute more, or you’ll have to explore your other options. That way it won’t be a snake move when you talk to your tutor about the problem, or when you mark them harshly in the self-assessment component that thankfully comprises group assignments now.
Most people just want to get the project done and get a decent grade rather than cause any huge drama–people aren’t intentionally sabotaging your grades. Sometimes things get in the way of getting the work done or parts may be hard to understand; be honest about this and communicate it to your group, making sure they feel welcome to communicate the same. As a group you will come up with a solution, and in fact this problem-solving is what group assignments are meant to develop (funny that).
6. Know that you’ll have to work in groups in real life too
Group assignments are a total ball-ache and nobody wants to do them, but they are meant to prepare you for what most jobs are like. Very rarely will you be working on your own, and even if you don’t have others on your team, companies are multi-faceted things that require interaction between different departments to work. Know that group projects aren’t a complete waste of time and get excited when you end up in a group without any conflict–that’s the kind of story you can drop in a job interview later.