How to get through a group project without sustaining injuries

The glimmering festive decorations and the delicious Glühwein at the central Christmas market may deceive you into thinking that the holiday season is here, but the harsh reality is that there are still numerous tasks you desperately need to accomplish in order to qualify for your finals, that is: passing those pesky PVL exams. Due to the large  number of course participants, and in an attempt to teach us teamwork, most of the lecturers reach for the seemingly innocent, yet deadly group assignment – presentations, term papers, reports etc. At first, you may be rejoicing at the idea of a smaller and equally distributed workload, yet a couple of days before the deadline, sudden disillusionment hits you as your group is stuck in a quarrel over the billionth controversial detail. Or even worse – someone decides to take advantage of the “cooperative” environment and procrastinates endlessly until they eventually get their work done by the team’s martyr. After all, you neither choose your family, nor your presentation group, and eventually you always need to take responsibility for their actions. In a parallel universe, you might be able to summon a team with whom you have the whole group project perfectly coordinated. Yet in the student’s reality, there is always an obstacle arising from the different personal working styles.

 

But how do you avoid the necessary trauma of group projects and conceal your team’s incompatible personalities to avoid a disaster in front of your professor?

  • Be in constant touch with your colleagues

Meet after the assignment has been announced and determine your broader topic; then, create a group chat where you can share every piece of information that might be relevant for your project. Open a Google Docs file or a Google Slides presentation.  Share it with your partners and make sure that each one of you is editing and updating the document. Meeting on a regular basis will most likely be a challenge considering your busy schedules, but if you manage to arrange a meeting, each group member has to arrive prepared, which unfortunately might need to be specified in advance. It may seem rude, but a single “Please prepare the information for your contribution” will save a considerable amount of precious time from being wasted.

  • Divide and reassemble

From the moment your group is selected, there are negotiations to be made – the separation of your work tasks being the first and most challenging one. Yet, distributing an equal workload is not a quixotic cause – I have been a witness to the most meticulous division of labour for a presentation during my exchange at the University of Poitiers, France, which included counting the lines of text for each participant. And it worked! So don’t be afraid to reach for an extreme division method, for your smooth coordination will be rewarded. After each of the participants adds their piece of the project puzzle, start editing the body as a coherent whole and pay attention to the logical transitions between each part.

  • Divide and… conquer?

There is no need to deceive ourselves that university students can collaborate in democracy. The question of who will end up being the domineering figure to head the team can be devastating for the group’s unity. If someone else desperately wants to be the leader in your group, and they work and direct efficiently, let them enjoy their moment. Yet, oftentimes people merely lay down the law and refuse accepting productive criticism. In this case, you may need to disturb the established order and overpower them – in a manner of speaking. So, grab your favourite dystopian novel and start your mini rebellion! Just keep the deadline in mind… Joking aside, maintain a diplomatic tone during your negotiations otherwise the whole project is bound to collapse.

  • Always revise your work before submission

As you already know, proof-reading is a must, as is conducting a rehearsal at a final meeting before the crucial date. If you have the chance, try to arrange it a couple of days in advance so that the group is well coordinated. You will then have more time to iron out any imperfections.

 

Group assignments need not to be warzones with flying papers, warring factions and laptops forcibly slammed shut. Developing a noteworthy academic project is challenging, and if every team member agrees (or is pushed to agree) to manage with their slice of the workload consciously, your project will certainly excel!

I hope you are managing well with the overly stressful end of the year and that you will be able to enjoy your well-deserved relaxation during the holiday season!

Marina Ivanova

(Bachelor English & American Studies, 5th semester)

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