Simple guide to surviving and thriving at group projects
By JOHN JAMISON
The sign-up sheet for group project presentation dates was passed around the room. Its journey started in the corner but by the time it finally reached my side, the only available project topic or presentation date was scheduled for next week. You get that pit in your stomach feeling because you are trying to figure out what other unfortunate souls were relegated to the same fate.
Most students have felt something like this to some degree. The chaos and confusion that characterize a college workload make it difficult enough to keep up without the spectre of a group project looming over them. Alas, these projects won’t be getting fazed out any time soon. So here’s a little simple advice for the concerned student:
Organize— The sooner the better. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and assume the “leader” role from the start. Find out exactly who the other students in your group are and approach them. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is to ask your professor if they can tell the students that are signed up for the first presentation to stay behind for a second after class. At this point simply introduce yourself, collect phone numbers and emails from the members of the group, that way you’re already off to a smooth start.
Don’t stress— If you’re anything like me, the prospect of your personal grade being dependent on the efforts of someone else is terrifying. Our terror is not completely unfounded, but try not to lose any sleep over it. Consider that the professor understands exactly what they are doing in assigning this project. They understand that this will likely be uncomfortable for us, but at the same time they are creating accountability and teaching us how to work with a team. Furthermore, as a fifth year senior who has been around the block a few times, I have never known a professor to let the performance of a singular group member who clearly didn’t prepare or contribute to an otherwise solid presentation bring down the group grade so much that it kills your personal grade in the class. Professors have been watching students deliver nerve-wracked presentations for years; they can tell when someone truly doesn’t try. More often than not, they are very reasonable people.
Make an effort— If someone in your group isn’t responding to the group text or the email thread, all the signs that point to them because they are not contributing, don’t simply accept their non-participation. It is still a group project after all. Yes it’s inconvenient, but if you’ve met with your group to start working on the project and that one member still doesn’t show up, continue to treat them like a member of the group. Split up specific responsibilities among every member and send an email with each person’s role, this way the missing member can see explicitly what the group is asking of them. It might give them that feeling of guilt and spark their sense of accountability.
Have fun— Yes, I said that. For most people, the thought of a group project being fun has never crossed your mind. It’s just a mindset. Get to know the people in your group. They all have knowledge that you don’t, so learn what you can from them. Who knows, you may come out the other end of the process with a new friend. Having a team behind you during a presentation can instill an incredible amount of confidence, making the entire experience more enjoyable for everyone, the audience included.