April Wilson, Graduate MA Journalism and Media Communications, The University of Hertfordshire
For anyone who resists giving over control of a project, the words ‘group work’ can automatically send a chill down your spine when announced in class. However, group work does not need to be scary and asking for help is not a sign of defeat. During my Masters degree at the University although I really admired all the work my team members brought to our project, I still tried to finish the project by myself because I find it a struggle to relinquish control. However, it was too much for one person and though asking for help was difficult; it was the best decision I could have made. After all, if I hadn’t my mark on the project (and theirs) could have suffered.
However, there are other common obstacles that can come up with group work so I wanted to give a few tips of things to look out for (based off my own and friends experiences):
Having specific roles is key
When working in a group, if you write down what part of the project everyone is responsible for from the start, it really does help. Although, meeting up to work on the project as much as possible is helpful, sometimes with different timetables this isn’t always possible. But if everyone knows what work they need to complete and when for (timelines are key!); it makes any potential arguments later on about what work needs doing a lot easier to navigate. Of course, you can have some flexibility in these roles within your team but I think having a set plan really does help to everyone work at the same pace.
Get everyone’s contact details
Before you even meet as a group for the first time make sure to grab at least everyone’s mobile number and email address, as there are key to scheduling team meetings. I know many people like setting up messenger or whatsapp groups, which can be really useful; just make sure you’re using a platform everyone is comfortable with! If not everyone in the team has Whatsapp, don’t start a group without them – it will instantly cause a rift in your group!
Set the deadline in advance
Speaking of making sure everyone works at a similar pace, I really recommend allowing everyone in the team time to reflect on a project before you hand it in. When I worked in a team where we decided to do this it gave us the time to go through and check everything in the project. This meant on hand in/ presentation day we were primed and ready to go and not frantically trying to finish up! I also recommend this tactic with all assignments when possible, as it also really helps with proof reading if you have a few days off from an essay.
Talk to your supervisor if there is an issue
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to engage with someone, not everyone pulls their weight in a group project. If you have brought this up to your team member and you are still having issues, do talk to your lecturer about it. They can talk to their student themselves and make sure it reflects everyone’s mark within the group.
Most of all, I think it’s important to remember that group work is a chance to get to know people in your class better who you might not have spoken to as much and a chance to have lots of ideas feeding into a project. It can be tempting to be possessive of your ideas but it is important to be fair as well as honest. If the team has already taken most of your ideas on already, allow someone the opportunity to let their idea shine.
Remember group work is an opportunity to have fun collaborating with your class mates and shouldn’t cause you extra stress!