So, maybe you’re a better student than I am and you actually LIKE group work. However, in my experience, most motivated and successful students don’t like group work. It’s not because the work is hard, but the people who fit those descriptions tend to be the folks who end up doing the project or paper, and then putting the other group members’ names on it. But, as much as we all hate group work, instructors are still going to assign it (and those of us who teach are probably subjecting our our students to it). So here are a few ideas to make the experience tolerable, and maybe something you actually enjoy.
1) Choose a group leader or “coordinator.” Every business needs a Steve Jobs, every d-line needs a Brian Urlacher. A group leader is important, but their role will vary depending on the group dynamic. In more motivated groups, the coordinator may just end up scheduling meeting and setting up a Google doc. In other situations, the group leader may have to be the parent and track down the contributions of group members. Bottom line, someone has to be in charge.
2) Make a timeline and set deadlines. My pop always says “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” Breaking down a project into smaller tasks, dividing them up among group members, and setting deadlines will not only make the project more palatable, it will make group members accountable to one another in steps, instead of finally realizing on the due date that one group member hasn’t done ANY of their portion.
3) Be prepared to compromise. Let’s take a page from our recent political situation and NOT ACT LIKE THEM. Nobody is going to do every project the same way or even use the same tools to get there. Those of us with more OCD tendencies have to just take a deep breath and realize that we can only do our best and sometime just let people (and their portion of the group grade) be.
4) Take time to take technological stock of the group members. Digital literacy is varied and some of us tend to take others’ knowledge for granted. What tools are we going to use to get the project done? How are we going to share our progress? Email? Google docs? A Posterous group blog? Google sites? The possibilities are literally endless. Just make sure that whatever you choose, your group feels comfortable using it.
5) Lastly, relax. The group project can be fun and memorable. You may even form a softball or Beirut team together. But probably not. And that’s okay too. You don’t have to be BFFs, just get your work done.
And, because we HAVE to have a video, a tip about group work from Yo Gabba Gabba (the show my kid watches ad nauseum):
[Image by Flickr user Chris L_AK and used under Creative Commons License]
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