Group Work

For some people, working with others is relatively easy. But for others, a number of factors can make the experience challenging. How do you get through a group assignment without hating the others in your group?

Getting Started

First thing to do is to meet as a group and briefly discuss your experience with groups. If some members have more group work experience, they may have useful advice on how to get the assignment done without conflict. It is also the time for each member to assess how much time they can give to the assignment.

  • Read over the assignment together. Make sure you all know what your instructor expects.
  • Discuss how you will divide the responsibilities evenly among the group members.
  • Schedule further meetings and what will be required from each person at those meetings, including time limits.
  • Discuss roles that each person will take on within the group (e.g. group leader, final editor, content coordinator, etc.)
  • Make sure all group members have each other’s contact information with a schedule of meetings.

Scheduling

One of the biggest challenges with group work is scheduling time to meet. Without meetings, it can be very difficult for all members to have enough time and information to complete their portion of the assignment, so regular meetings are necessary. The group leader also has to make sure everyone is doing their tasks on time according to schedule. If choosing a meeting schedule face-to-face is too difficult, consider online chats through an instant messaging system (for example, Skype or G+Hangouts) at an appointed time so you can discuss your assignment as a group.

If you can’t agree on a time to meet or chat, set up a wiki in DokuWiki, TWiki or Google Drive to share a common document between all group members. Group leaders can monitor how much of the assignment is done and the content coordinator has one document to organize rather than multiple sections separately.

Team Dynamics

Group work can sometimes bring out the best or the worst in people. Because everyone has different working styles, working together at the same time can be more difficult than the actual assignment that needs to be completed. Flexibility, tolerance and tact go a long way when working in a group, and being understanding of problems other team members face can minimize conflict within the group.

From the first meeting, establish rules for the meetings, especially how each member will interact with the group. Meetings should be a discussion of the assignment, not one person dictating to everyone else. Nor should individual members think, because other people are involved, that they can slack off and not do anything. Establish rules from the start to minimize problems later.

When dividing work, get opinions from each team member to make sure work is distributed evenly. No one wants to do more than everyone else, so getting feedback from each team member is important.

Communicating any negative feelings throughout the group work in a non-threatening way is necessary for getting through the assignment. If someone isn’t meeting deadlines or showing up to meetings, the group needs to address the behaviour without attacking the reluctant team member.

Negotiate solutions to conflicts that may come up. As a group, you may decide that one person can communicate with just the group leader to prevent a disruption to the work that needs to be done, or you may decided to switch tasks if a personality conflict causes problems. Be willing to negotiate with each other to make sure the assignment is done without too many conflicts.

If there are problems that cannot be solved or that are hurting your group’s ability to work together, let your instructor know. Your instructor can’t always solve the problem, but he or she could take into account how the problem could affect the assignment outcome.

Last updated December 10, 2015