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How to work in a group

How to work in a group

Advice to ace your next group assignment

An unknown student once said, “when I die I want my group project members to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time.”

Group projects can often seem like the end of the world. Coordinating group meetings and making sure each member does their job is often more overwhelming than the project itself.

Learning how to work better and have more successful group projects is an important part of university, especially at Augustana. The small campus environment sometimes forces students to work with peers who might not be as committed or hard-working.

Kenna Griffin, assistant professor of mass communications and the director of student publications at Oklahoma City University said that it’s important to recognize personality differences.

“If you understand that each person in your group has a different personality, you can start to develop the skills to work better with personalities you may find difficult to work with,” said Griffin.

Griffin said that some personality types are harder to work with, and that students should make sure they address issues within groups before they become worse.

The University of Alberta Student Success Centre provides professional support to help students strengthen their academic skills and achieve their academic goals.

Sharon Stearns, a senior learning advisor at the Student Success Centre, thinks that group work is a great way for students to gain skills. “I recognize that if it isn’t well organized and well managed, a group project can be an incredibly frustrating and unproductive experience,” said Stearns.

Stearns said that in many ways, group work requires a lot of setup and organization on the part of the professor. Further, there needs to be common expectations and guidelines for how students will communicate, when they will meet, and the tasks that each person is to complete.

“If you’re not getting that organization, then your group has to plan and use those skills to hold each other accountable. If the professor is not assigning roles within the groups, then the groups must sort out clear roles themselves,” said Stearns.

There are many benefits to group work, said Stearns, such as gaining experience with communication, teamwork, time management, conflict resolution, and project management.

“There should be designated roles within groups, and for longer term projects, the roles should rotate. If the students want to gain all of the benefits, they need to not just stick with the role they find the most comfortable,” said Stearns.

Stearns referenced an article written by Oakland University, called “Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams”. The article states that when dealing with difficult group members it is important to “set firm, explicit expectations—then stick to your guns.”

Stearns said that professors need to set up groups more effectively and have specific policies.

“They need to provide more explanation for students. We aren’t born with these skills, they develop over time. Professors know the benefits of group work, so they assign it, but students are challenged when they aren’t provided with the groundwork”

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