So it’s around that time in the semester when the dreaded group assignment looms.
A good team can produce better results than individuals working alone, and teamwork can improve the abilities of each individual, teach you to cope with challenge and criticism and help you to consider different perspectives.
However, due to the nature of group work, group members can sometimes find that they are not working effectively. Some of the most common problems that occur in group assignments include –
- Misunderstandings about responsibilities
- (Perceived) lack of commitment in some group members
- Personality clashes
- One person doing all the work
To give your group the best possible chance at success, try the following process –
- Take the time to introduce yourselves– this might sound obvious, but talk about your skills, assign roles and duties to each group member, and swap contact details.
- Meet as soon as possible – meet regularly and set an agenda. Record the minutes and actions, and make sure all group members acknowledge and agree to timelines.
- Set ground rules – this means agreeing on and setting up expectations for attendance, confidentiality of group information, consideration of group members, amount of effort to be given to the assignment and timelines for completion. Write them down and distribute to all group members so there are no misunderstandings.
- Analyse the assignment task – make sure all group members are clear about the task and divide duties (try dividing duties according to each group member’s strengths). Set deadlines, and build a review of the group’s progress into each meeting – this helps to avoid last minute panic.
- Assign functional roles – each team member can take on a variety of functional roles such as – coordinator (keeps track of the project); initiator (suggests new ideas and plans); information seeker (performs research); goal setter (evaluates and set targets for the group); evaluator (critically analyses the assignment); planner (organises schedules); finisher (edits and proofreads)
- Create strategies for dealing with problems – decide on how decisions will be made (e.g. consensus, majority, compromise). Consider the perspectives and personal situations of other team members and record all decisions, actions and incidents in your meeting minutes. Finally, consult with your tutor or lecturer if your group cannot resolve the problem.
Remember that proactive people + planned process = successful team! And you might just make some wonderful new friends in the process…