Student Success Stories: Strategies for Working in Teams
How to Successfully Handle Team Projects
Real study strategies from real students -- succeeding in teams while in college.
Do your part to the best of your ability and motivate your teammates to want to do as well as you. Show them how much it means to you and maybe they will follow your lead. Don't do it all by yourself. I've done this before and it is a lot of unnecessary stress that can be avoided by just making other want to help you. Figure out what motivates your team and make it fun for everyone to work together!
Every group project is different, if you're a perfectionist like me it will be hard to trust others to get the work done properly but it's important to hold back a bit and let everyone else contribute. I always volunteer to do the final edit or regrouping of all the material and I get the chance to make sure the project is great. Usually there's no one else in the group who wants this task so it works out. If You're presenting the project always do a run-through, you don't want to look unprepared, it looks a lot worse than you can imagine.
It's always a good idea to have open, honest communication from the beginning with your teammates, especially on their work ethic on projects, how they usually do on them, and what their strong and weak points are. If you keep open, honest communication, you'll know exactly what to expect from each person. It's also important when working in a group to develop a work timeline and smaller team due dates aside from due dates assigned in class. This will keep everyone on the same track, and if someone starts to slack, it'll be easier to identify when they don't make the first deadline versus when the project actually has to be turned in. Also, if multiple deadlines are used in your group, designate someone who is really good with editing and organizing to put the project together and continuously work on shaping the final product. If this person works on that throughout the time they have to work on it, there won't be a last minute rush the night before to compile everything and make sure nothing's missing -- if someone's constantly editing and checking to make sure everything's included, if something isn't, they have more time to delegate someone else in the group to get that information rather than scrambling for it at the last minute.
The key to succeeding in a team project is to be a team player. No one likes working with a slacker, so don't be a slacker! But don't get taken advantage of either. There were many times when I had taken the lead on a project because nothing was getting done, and unfortunately I think I earned the reputation of "the girl who will do the whole project." Most people will try harder when they feel as though they are valued. Try to get group members involved -- assign them tasks and make them feel as though they are contributing. Taking the role of a leader will not only give you experience you can use outside of school, it will also help you make an impression with your professor.
Also, do not wait until the last minute to begin working on projects. I found that my most successful team projects involved checkpoints and goals. Knowing what is to be done, and when it needs to be done is a great way to stay focused and on time. Try to have a group project complete 3-4 days before it is due to leave some time for last minute ideas and editing.
Before making final decisions... pass a list around to get all the ideas out... don't let the determined extrovert take the group in an unwanted direction. Make sure ALL possibilities are recognized. Assign tasks to each individual and a form of communication with DEADLINES for everything. No one in the group will get anything done unless there are deadlines.
Honestly I prefer working alone to working in groups, so coming to college was a big wake up call. We have at least on group project per class usually. I would say what has helped me is to always go to group meetings and do your fair share of the work. If you have a problem with one of the members, talk it over with everyone else to see if they feel the same way. If they do, definitely take it up with the professor. Often in our group projects if a member isn't pulling their weight they can be fired from the group and have to do a project themselves, which is usually harder.
Never assume someone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Have regular meetings and have each member show their work, not just give you or the group their word for it.
Have a backup plan. It's inevitable that someone will not pull his/her weight and the slack will have to be picked up. If you care about the quality of the work then you'll have to do the extra work and seek solace in the fact that teachers do take team evaluations into consideration when assigning grades. I've only been on one group project where everyone did their share.
Be patient, but be assertive. You don't want any free-riding team member to walk all over you and reap the benefits. At the same time, it is definitely important to understand that each of your team members has an equally hectic schedule as you so be flexible.
COMMUNICATION! Despite your group synergy, communication is crucial. I remember I ran out of cell phone minutes constantly when working on a group project for my marketing research class. It's really important that everyone is on the same page and getting the same emails. The worst is when two people are working on the same portion of the project and don't even realize it.
Start early and set dates to meet.
Figure out the best way to meet. There are other ways of communicating with each other beyond a physical group meeting. With the power of the internet, you can create chat rooms, have a discussion group, e-mail, or IM the member of your group whenever the time is best for everyone.
I was in a group where 2 of us lived on campus, and the other 2 lived at home. We used a chatroom because 9:00 pm was the best time for all of us, but the commuters didn't want to come to campus that late. This also helped because we were all able to look at the same thing at the same time.
Be accepting, but not passive. Not everybody operates and learns the same way, so find their unique talents, and give them a suitable that you both agree on. Also, make note of anyone slacking. You'll have evidence to back up any reason why a group member should pick up the pace. Last but not least, encourage your teammates, especially when they're stressed out because everyone likes to feel important.
Be a leader. If you can not be the assigned leader, still lead -- question your captain, help other members etc. Be sure to do your share of the work. Group projects are not just for a grade. The amount of group projects I have discussed in job interviews, and even while working is incredible. Those "name a time when..." questions are meant for group project answers, and if you can say you were the leader, it just makes you stand out that much more.
If you are able to choose your group, pick people that you know you will work well with, who will do a good job and come to meetings at the time your group chooses to meet.
Since most of the time you don't get to choose the people you work with on group projects, you have to learn to make the best of the situation. I've had both horrible and great group project experiences. If everyone is involved and interested in the topic than the project will go much more smoothly then if you have to spend time hunting down group members and breaking up fights within the group. Listen to everyone's ideas and use constructive criticism when discussing why to choose one way rather than the other. I also think its easier if you can divide the work up amongst your group and then when you meet you can spend time making sure that everyone is on the same track.
If possible, try to meet with your group right after the class that you have together so that they can't "forget" about the meeting and not show up. Also, always make sure that you meet with them and see how their part of the project is before the day it is due! That way if someone in your group did a less than wonderful job on their part, there is still time to try to make it better before it has to be turned in. Also, it gives you a chance to practice if there is a presentation involved.
Make sure that someone reliable is the leader or take it upon yourself. Keep in touch with everyone via email and delegate responsibility.
Personally, I do not like working on group projects, especially ones that I worked on in high school. However, when it is required to work in a group, usually I try to lead. I like taking the lead because then I know that my grade will be a good one. I do well in school, I always have and I don't plan on changing that anytime soon, so when I need to work with people who maybe don't care as much as I do, or they have more time to waste on things other than the project, I try to be in charge. That way I know that things are going to get done on time and that I am going to get a good grade. If I am working in a group of people who all want to work, then it is a different story. I can and will work as part of the team as long as everyone in the team is willing to do their work. I don't like having to pick up the slack, but I will if I know that my grade will be harmed otherwise.
Honestly, I hate group projects but since they are important my advice would be -- don't be afraid to take the lead but know when to back down. The important thing is that the project gets done -- simple as that.
If you get to pick your group/team pick people who you know and/or who you know to be hard workers. Be prepared to have to compromise on parts of the project but don't let all your ideas be shut down completely.
Make sure you get your part of the work done. Being a good team player will hopefully motivate the other to get their parts done as well. It's crucial that you also stay on top of teammates and their portions of the work. Check in on them periodically and make sure they are not falling behind.
In group projects I think it is best to identify the group leader. Naturally (or even sometimes assigned) there is a leader to every group. This person should be the point of contact. Having a representative voice for the group helps to clarify things, keep the group organized, and get things accomplished.
Try to be the leader if possible. I do not like to depend on others too much.
Be organized!! If you do not have all your research or information together it will be that much harder for others to work with you.
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