Love them or hate them, group assignments are a reality in a lot of university courses. You can see the logic - collaborating with others is an important skill - but group assignments can come with some difficulties and frustrations, too.
I’m one of those people who really don’t like group assignments at all. I get the merit, but more often than not I think they cause more issues than they’re worth. There are some strategies I’ve found that make things a little easier, though, so I thought I’d outline a few tips if, like me, you’re sceptical of group work!
Set roles for accountability
The issue sometimes with group work is that there’s limited personal accountability. Whilst any given person could do the work, there are equally others who could do it - so why should they? The other side of that is that, without roles being allocated, individuals might feel like they don’t want to step on toes by doing too much.
If you collectively set roles at the start of the project, however, a lot of this is countered. Those who want to make a start can do so by working on their specific sections, whilst those who might be less inclined have more personal accountability to get started.
Keep a paper record of roles
If things later go pear-shaped (fingers crossed that this will never be an issue!), having a paper trail or evidence of your agreed roles and responsibilities can be very useful. You may end up referring back to it with your group members as a reminder, or, if the situation is more dire, presenting it as evidence to your subject tutor or coordinator.
To set this up, you might consider an initial group meeting where everybody agrees to roles on Google Docs, or sends an email in a group conversation confirming that they are happy with the situation. Without this type of evidence, it can be a lot trickier (and more stressful) to account for incomplete work if one of your group members becomes evasive.
Check in regularly
To try to avoid situations like the above, a good strategy can be setting up regular times to check in with each other. This is beneficial because it allows you to keep each other accountable, ensure everybody is on track and on the same page, and make any adjustments necessary based on the other members’ work. Remember - you want the overall assignment to be cohesive!
You don’t want the catch-ups to be inefficient, so it might be worth setting up an agenda for each meeting. Short and focused is the way to go!
By virtue of there being more chefs in the kitchen, decision-making can take a little bit longer in group work than it would if you were just working alone. As such, it’s important to make a start as early as you can to avoid last-minute mishaps. Everybody has different schedules and responsibilities, so establishing mini deadlines/milestones early on can also be useful.
The reality is that it’s very likely not everything will go right. Perhaps you’ll disagree in certain areas with your fellow group members, or perhaps one of your group members has something come up that makes it very difficult to focus on the group assignment. That group member might even be you!
In situations like these, it’s important to be transparent. If one of your group members couldn’t focus on the assignment for whatever reason, you would want to know so that you could make other arrangements as needed. And so, if that group member is you, do your best to let your group know and keep them in the loop.
Group work comes with challenges, but can also be really rewarding. You can learn from each other, get experience working collaboratively, and, if all goes well, make a lot of great friends!
Best of luck. 🤝