Most of the universities and institutions in Australia will put a major emphasis on group assignments: this is when a number of students collaborate and work together, with limited supervision to complete a task. I’m sure most students have assignments “knocking-on-the-door” and if you’re studying anything that is remotely related to Strategic Management you would know what I’m trying to convey. Just looking at the number of group assignments I have this term is driving me up the wall.
Group assignments tend to seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t worked on many before; and at times both international students and local students find group assignments challenging.
Group assignments could be a chunk of your overall grade and thus, as a result, it is essential to know how to be a good team member by contributing to the team. Most significantly, group assignments are a great way to meet new people, forge new friendships along with developing team-work skills.
There are a few things you can keep an eye out to ensure that you are contributing and getting the best out of your group projects at the same time.
Selecting Your Group
Working with friends may seem the easiest option for everyone, so if you’re allowed to choose your own group, fee free to choose friends to be a part of your group – the ones that you can rely on! It is also a good idea to work in a diverse group, with a mix of both local and international students. Local students tend to have more experience with group assignments compared to international students and can help you out with certain parts. Once you have your group, get to know them and try and become friends with them – befriending your team mates could be an easier path to deal with any conflicts/ obstacles that might arise in the future.
Communication with Group members
The first conversation with your team-members regarding the group assignment would most probably be about how each of you will communicate. It could be a Facebook group, a Google document or via emails – whichever medium you choose to communicate with, remember to check that regularly. if one of your team member suggest an idea, take time to give them some feedback, ask lots of questions and if you have an idea about how to proceed regarding the assignment, don’t be afraid to share them with your team members.
Understanding the Assessment
It is important to initially read through the assignment requirements thoroughly. If your group has trouble understanding the requirements – don’t be alarmed – you can always ask for help! One of the team members can go and speak with the lecturer/ tutor. There are student services that are available on campus (Academic Learning Centre) that can help you to decipher all the information as well as proofread the assignment once you have a draft ready. You can also ask help from one of the library staff to help you out with resources/ references.
Doing Equal Work
The biggest reason for worry is that when one realises that s/he is doing more work than they actually have to. In the beginning of the group presentation, usually the first conversation is regarding the work breakdown – basically deciding what each member has to do. Be open, at this stage, about your strengths and what you would really like to do. For example, if you’re not confident speaking during a presentation let your team members know that you would like to do more research or written work.
Whether you’re really good at group assignments or not, at some point in your life you will be forced to do them, and irrespective of how good you are, you will have to deal with these types of people:
- The Permanent Stoner (say “dude” a lot; always misses the deadline; other members suffer as they have to cover for this person. Give them stricter deadlines, so even if this person misses them, you still have enough time to cover for them/ or make them re-do the assigned part.)
- The Self-appointed Dictator (Bossy from the start; makes it no secret that he wants full marks in the assessment; expects everyone to work as hard as he does; buy them a drink outside of the group to loosen them up a bit, maybe try being friends with them for a while but if your ideas are at polar opposites then just ignore them and do what you want, if anything, this will drive them crazy and you have some great material for a viral YouTube video!)
- The Know-It-All (usually the one arguing with the dictator, seems knowledgeable but lures you into a false pretense of security; always ask them to back-up their claims with substantial evidence.)
- The Nervous Nancy (the one shaking in the corner; not really dangerous but their shyness can hinder your overall grade as they will not ask questions from the start and you will be in a whole different kind of problem unlike the ones mentioned above; help them out as much as you can.)
- The Party Animal (you’ll probably meet this type of person more than anyone in the world; the one trying really hard to keep their eyes open during the early morning group discussions and carries a pungent smell of alcohol with them wherever they go; their sole aim in university is to break their own personal record of beer pong; schedule group discussions later in the afternoon to ensure full consciousness.)
These are just some of the stereotypes you see while working in a group. The easiest ways to avoid a conflict are to listen, brainstorm, be honest (and polite!), separate the people from the problem and lastly, seek help and advice.
I’m based in Melbourne, so if you see me loitering around the hallway, come and say “G’day mate!”
Best of luck with all the assessments, especially the group assessments!