‘Many hands make light work’ does most definitely not apply when it comes to group assignments. The sense of dread group assignments fill uni students with is second only to presentations, and like presentations you can’t make it through your uni degree without having to do at least one – you’re lucky if you even get through a semester scot-free.
Trying to get quality work achieved when working with different personalities and skill sets is always difficult; in each group there’s almost always a control freak trying to micromanage everyone or the slacker who does absolutely nothing and mooches off the rest of the group. It's no wonder group assignments are the bane of a university student’s existence, but sadly they’re something you’re going to have to endure.
To help make them as painless as possible, we’ve provided you with our top tips to make it through group assignments:
Get to know your group
They may surprise you and actually turn out to be as hardworking and dedicated as you are (but probably not). Rather than having group meetings at the library, head to somewhere nearby off campus with a more relaxed atmosphere like a nearby café – just not the uni bar. This will allow you to get a feel for one another’s personalities and skill sets, and will lessen to the tension and make it easier to interact with one another, which leads us onto our next point.
Play to everyone’s strengths and personalities and work around their flaws accordingly
o The control freak: You’ll be able to recognise the control freak in the group straight away; they'll be the ones trying to micromanage everything and constantly taking charge. Break down group roles to stop them from taking complete charge, and appease them by letting let them know that you appreciate everything they’re doing, but nevertheless you’re confident with your ability.
o The quiet one: There's almost always an unnervingly silent group member, who doesn’t contribute to group discussions. Deal with this by engaging them online as they’ll be more likely to open up this way, and directly involve them in group dialogue.
o The lazy one: It’s a rarity that there is a group project without that one member who just coasts by and does the least amount of work possible. To get the most out of them, set early deadlines and ask to see how they’re progressing. Also, give them them the most unpleasant task that requires the least amount of world and has the least weighting, such as doing all the referencing and putting together the presentation.
Divide and conquer
Assign tasks for each group member and break down evenly. Divvy up a fair amount of work for everyone to make sure everyone pulls their weight, and to make the work seem less overwhelming and manageable.
Set early deadlines
The likelihood that you’re going to have someone who doesn’t pull their weight and won’t get stuff done on time or to an acceptable degree is pretty high. To balance this out, set early deadlines for each facet of the assessment in order to have a security buffer of time to fix up any mistakes. Keep an eye on who’s contributing and who isn’t as this will eliminate any last minute panic when you realise the group member who never showed up to any team meetings didn’t do any work either - shocker.
Take the lead, even if you don’t want to – and chances are you don’t
If no one else is stepping up, take on the role of leader yourself. Just keep reminding yourself that your grade is at stake. Take on role of group editor and go through everyone’s work, delegate tasks and facilitate communication between the group.
Lessen the time you actually have to spend together by communicating online
Facebook keeps communication open, whilst Google Drive is an easy way to make the entire process more collaborative, keep track of how everyone is progressing and make easy edits. This ability to collaborate easily on Google Docs also eliminates the need for face-to-face communication, something we’re all grateful for.
Don’t be afraid to snitch
Peer review is there for a reason, and if someone didn’t pull his or her weight and you think it’ll affect your mark then say something. Now is the time for sweet, sweet revenge.
WORDS BY CLAUDIA STACEY-MURRAY