Group Assignments? Yuck! Having very little control over what goes in an assessment with your name on it, relying on others caring about their studies as much as you and even maybe having to work with somebody who is lazy or careless can be really stressful, but unfortunately is common when it comes to group assignments. Group assignments have a terrible reputation; the mention of one is often met with a groan and a complaint, and rarely with enthusiasm. However, I’ve come to learn that they actually aren’t always bad. If you approach the situation with an open mind, a group assignment can be transformed from a chore to a fantastic opportunity to make new friends.
Keep reading to find out about my recent experience with a group assignment and my tips for success…
I’ve never liked group assignments for a few reasons, as a shy person I find it hard to assert myself and voice my concerns, and as someone who generally gets good grades, I find it hard to have to collaborate with people who either do not care about their grade as much as I do, or are not naturally high achievers. It can be tough. Navigating your way through and completing a successful group assignment usually requires good compromise and cooperation skills, and you certainly need to be willing to make concessions. I have never been unfortunate enough to have to work with a terrible group, but until last year, I had never actually enjoyed a group assignment.
My attitude toward group assignments changed drastically last year, when I completed a unit which was almost completely centred around group work. I entered into the unit with apprehension and annoyance – I really didn’t want to have to work in a group for a whole term. Our groups were selected by the unit coordinator based on our expressions of interest in certain assignment topics. I ended up in a group with two girls I didn’t know, and a girl from my campus who I knew from previous classes. Much to my surprise, we all clicked instantly. We made a Facebook Messenger group chat to discuss our assignment, and straight away we were using it to chat like old friends.
Not only did we all get along as friends, but we also worked well together academically. Our skill sets were all very complementary. Throughout the course of the assignment, we kept up excellent communication and delegated tasks to suit each person’s individual skill set. Not only did we receive a high distinction for our first assignment, but we actually had fun in the process – as stressful as it was at times! The assignment was an opportunity to learn not only the unit information, but also a way to enhance our people and teamwork skills. It was such a great learning experience for me, and it really changed my view on group assignments. I came into it with apprehension and came out of it with a new view on group work plus three wonderful new friends – we all still use our group chat to keep in touch. Last year, two of the team members from Townsville travelled to Rockhampton, where myself and my other teammate were based, for the Chancellor’s Cup. This gave us a chance to meet in person and work on our assignment together which was amazing!
The unexpected friendships to come out of that group assignment has certainly been the highlight of my university experience so far. Earlier this month, one of my teammates and I agreed to attend the QLD Government’s Co-Lab Youth Road Safety Challenge together, something I would never do alone. The challenge was to work in teams to develop a road safety campaign aimed at 18-25-year-olds. We didn’t know when applying, but our groups were selected at random by the organisers. Amazingly, we were grouped into the same team! We ended up having our campaign shortlisted and we are now in the running to have our advertisement made and aired by the Queensland Government. It was an amazing experience, but I never would have done any of it if my teammate from my group assignment didn’t agree to do it with me.
It just goes to show how, with the right attitude (and a little bit of luck), the dreaded group assignment can be transformed into a great, friendship-forging experience. My team and I are lucky enough to be completing another group-based unit this term, and we are working on an assignment together again, this time with one extra member!
While you may never be quite as lucky as me when it comes to group assignments – because I seriously struck gold – my experience certainly offers up a few pointers in completing a successful group assignment:
- Approach it with an open mind – don’t assume it’s going to be the worst thing ever before even meeting and getting to know your teammates.
- Designate tasks to complement that person’s individual skill – if someone is good with words, let them edit the document, if another team member is better at statistics or analysis, let them handle that side of things.
- Use a shared Google Doc when drafting your assignment, it’s a great way to see how your fellow teammates are travelling, plus it allows for constructive criticism and suggestions, meaning you are likely to end up with a more polished final piece.
- If some members are less assertive or enthusiastic than others, it can be a good idea to appoint a group leader to help delegate tasks and keep everybody on track.
- Try your best to complete your fair share of the work so that nobody is let down.
- Keep communication channels with your group open, if a team member is feeling overwhelmed or confused, there should be a way for them to communicate that to the group and subsequently receive help.
Keep these tips in mind next time you’re starting a group assignment. Most importantly, just try to keep an open mind, because you never know – you could be about to make some brand-new friends!
Caitlin Murphy is a current Professional Communications student and member of the Social Squad – a group of content creators helping to promote student and campus life at CQUniversity.