How to work effectively on a group assignment
Not a fan of group assignments? You are not alone. International students often find them quite challenging – on top of the typical challenges of any assessment, there is also a minefield of social and linguistic issues to overcome.
However, they are great opportunities to practice communication and time-management skills which will prove valuable for almost any career path. Not to mention they can be a big chunk of your grade too!
Set clear goals and track progress
An accurate assessment of the task before you start can save you a lot of time in the future. Setting clear goals can help everyone understand the assignment and make it easier to come up with detailed plans on how to reach the goals as a team. It also helps to create a few milestones along the way so the group can adjust accordingly in the process.
If you are not clear about what your team wants to achieve, discuss it with your team members or ask for your teacher's help. In Brisbane, on-campus academic support services can be a great resource when you are facing problems with your assignments.
There are some excellent project management tools like Jira, Monday, Trello, Basecamp, Slack and Asana that can help you effectively organise and track everyone's progress. There's no better feeling in the world than crossing off tasks!
Play to everyone's strengths and interests
When you are collaborating with others to work towards one common goal, you will learn about everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and reflect on your own too.
Someone in your team might be a great creative writer, but they might lack leadership skills. Someone who always comes up with new exciting ideas might not be great at following them through. The thing you are good at gets noticed when you are working in a team, and a good team will only magnify everyone’s best talents.
Remember – there are no natural slackers. Respect each other's role, have faith in them and give them enough personal space.
Respect each other while resolving conflicts
It's inevitable that team members may disagree with each other's ideas. While it can be frustrating sometimes, we need to learn how to manage conflicts while you're studying as this is an important part of a workplace.
It helps to write down the points of disagreements and openly discuss them with honesty and respect. Communication is always the primary rule when it comes to differences. Instead of pointing fingers, express yourself, be a keen listener and focus on how to develop a plan – you will find it’s easier to work with friends than enemies!
Deadlines exist for a reason. Time management skills are essential for your future career. Before you start the team project, try to allocate enough time to avoid any procrastination or last-minute stress.
Everyone works at different paces. If someone works slowly, sometimes it helps to give them a soft deadline before hitting them with the real one. It will also give them a significant productivity boost if other team members find some time to work with them in an active study environment.
What about worst-case scenarios?
Occasionally, for whatever reason, a group task may not work out. These things happen. If there are differences between group members that simply cannot be resolved, and genuine attempts have been made to solve the problem in good faith, then it may be necessary to liaise with your teachers or student support services.
But, don't leave it to the last minute! If a team member has an emergency or is unable to complete their part of the task, then teachers tend to be understanding - but much more so if you can notify them well in advance of the problem, so they know it’s not a last-minute excuse. Before going down that route, make sure it’s not something you can fix with a bit of communication and honesty.