It’s the first day of class. Your teacher is going over the syllabus, and talking about how they run the class. Finally, your teacher says, “And the final grade in this class will be a semester long, group project.” Now, depending on what type of person you are, you are either letting out a very loud subconscious, “AHHHH!”, or you’re thinking, “Oh yeah!”.
Either way, you’re stuck. Your only choice is to do the work assigned by your teacher. You might try complaining to your teacher about it, but arguing with a teacher over an assignment is like arguing over a bad call with a referee at an NFL game, it doesn’t work. I am one of the people that doesn’t mind group work because I am pretty comfortable talking and working with just about anyone. This could just be my PR background, but I’d like to think it’s due to a few simple guidelines about group work that I abide by.
(1) Make the First Move
In my experience with groups, it is best to act quickly. If you’ve got an idea right off the bat, go for it! Suggest it to the group. Maybe it won’t be the idea that the group uses, but it shows that you’re putting something forward. Or if the assignment/project is broken up into specific jobs, volunteer yourself for one that you want before any discussion has even begun. This will possibly let you take one of the easier tasks, and also show that you have initiative and want to get things done. If you act first in both or either of these instances, your group will remember your ambition when it comes time for peer evaluations!
(2) Go with the Flow
Yes, you should put forth an idea as soon as possible, but if someone else has a mind-blowing concept for the project then, the go with it! If everyone else in the group is agreed on a topic, but it’s not exactly your cup of tea, you put on your big boy (or girl) pants and drink that tea! You DO NOT want to end up being the person in the group that no one likes. You’ll end up with a bad reputation and probably a bad evaluation. I would only recommend pushing for your idea if it is something you are absolutely sure you can deliver on. If you push the group to use your idea and or/topic, you had better not mess it up.
(3) Pull Your Own Weight
This is probably the most important guideline: DO YOUR SHARE OF THE WORK. I know that sometimes, due to the jobs that get assigned or the nature of the project, one person may end up doing a little more work than others, but you do not want to be labeled as the person that didn’t do anything. If there doesn’t seem to be much work for you to do, ask others if you can help them with their work, or maybe help revise something that’s already written, drafted, designed, etc.
(4) Be Honest
When peer evaluation day rolls around at the end of the semester, be honest about your group-mates’ actions. Don’t give someone a bad grade just because they didn’t smell good, or give someone a good grade because you thought they were hot. Reward those that worked hard, and if anyone slacked off, then give them a lower grade.
Remember these are GUIDELINES, not rules. Meaning that you may have to ignore one depending on the nature of the assignment. Generally though, if you do these few simple things, you’ll end up with a better group experience, and a better grade.