Group work or group assignments – Our 3 best tips

The dreaded group assignment. One student from the Lifestart community called it the ‘dead-weight’ assignment. We’ve all had good experiences and not-so-good experiences when working as a team. Sometimes it all goes smoothly like a well-oiled machine, other instances you feel like you’re carrying the whole team single-handedly.

The thing about group projects is that they’ll be invaluable when you go into the workplace. Whatever job you do, you’ll be working alongside other people, so to make sure that those relationships are effective, we knew we had to write a blogpost. We don’t have all the answers though, so we decided to ask you. Here are just a few of the tips you, in the LifeStart community, gave us.

Get to know each other

The best groups know each other’s strengths and weakness. Whether you’ve chosen the group itself or your team was randomly assigned it’s important that you know each others strengths and weaknesses. Mohamed S. from University of Birmingham says that “a day or two needs to be spent to fully understand each member of the team and how their respective strengths could be used effectively in the assignment efforts.” Sometimes taking time just to chat and get to know each other can feel like wasting precious time when you could be working, but trust us it’ll pay off. By getting to know each other better, you go from being a group of individuals to becoming a team. Everyone should get the chance to introduce themselves. Talk about your normal working habits, the skills that you have that may be relative to the project. If all goes well, when you decide on the different roles, everybody should be working on aspects that they enjoy or are skilled at. Also, if any of you encounter any issues, knowing each other will be easier to ask for help or advice.  

You could, for example, play a card game and ask one another question. At least one of you curates a set of questions essential to the assignment and then you’ll go in rounds and answer them. Get inspired on Instagram; @soheresone or are a great start. 

Communication is key

This is possibly the most important tip of all. Communication is what makes or breaks teams. Ideally you want to meet up in person and have face to face chats. It’s a lot easier to be honest and decisions can be made a lot faster as you’re all in the same place. Once you’ve got the main idea sorted and different roles have been given to each of you that’s when you can share phone numbers, social media handles etc. Regular messaging is what will make sure you all keep the same focus.

Group messaging, shared google docs or texting can all be incredibly useful but don’t forget that face-to-face chats can often solve questions or problems in half the time. Try and plan more than one physical meeting before the deadline.

When you meet up, don’t forget to write down your ideas. Maybe bring coloured post-its that you can use to brainstorm and plan the project. Once you’ve finished, I often take a photo of all the notes together as a visual reminder of what was discussed. Other people take notes or even record the meeting on their phone. 

Prior planning prevents poor performance

The thing about group projects is that unlike other assignments you may have, you can’t really do it last minute. You may be adding finishing touches right up until the last few minutes, but the main bulk of the work should be spread evenly before the final deadline.

Now you’ve got to know each other and have regular meetups and online chats, you need to make sure you plan a realistic timeline of your project. Bear in mind that you may not all have the same availability and others may have different deadlines around the same time. That’s why timing can be so key.

Don’t assume that everyone can work on things around the same time. Be flexible. Try and set targets before the final deadline of when you’d like certain aspects to be finished. That way the whole team will be able to review the work before it’s submitted. As it’s a group project you’re all equally responsible for the final outcome By allowing for review time you can make sure it’s something you’re all equally proud of. Understanding what each of you want to achieve at the end of the project is something you can ask yourselves before you even start. 

Good luck with the group projects! Are you thinking of collaborating with friends for one of our challenges? Feel free to get in contact if you have any questions and check out the other learning resources we have prepared for you!