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How to Set Yourself Up for a Positive Group Work Experience

Written Raven Wilkinson

Photo by John Schnobrich

Oh, dreaded group work…

I don’t know about you, but my school had a craaaazy number of group assignments. It was wild. Admittedly, though, it made sense. My creative program set us up for creative jobs where collaboration is key to achieve a common goal. And even if your course isn’t group work heavy, you’ll likely have a few group assignments. So, as the self-proclaimed group work queen who has had the smoothest group project encounters—but also worked with people who made me want to pull my hair out—here are some ways to set yourself up for a positive experience.

group work GIF

Choose group members wisely

Friends are great, but sometimes they’re not the best to work with. Therefore, make sure to choose group members not based on how much you like them, but by how well you work together and your academic goals. By the end, I knew exactly who to work with to achieve our desired grade. Some were good friends. But some were classmates I had already established an efficient and successful dynamic with.

Discuss your assignment (and group) expectations

If you’re beginning your university or college career, you may not know which individuals to work with. That’s why it’s super important for everyone to discuss their expectations related to:

  • grades
  • quality of work
  • number of meetings
  • the group work in general

If you’re looking for a high grade, make sure you’re clear about expressing this. I hate to say this BUT if your group is okay with a passing grade, be prepared to put more effort in to reach your desired goal. That said, the more people you work with, the more you’ll be able to scout out those who have the same expectations and eventually find your group work “soul mates”.

Assign tasks and hold each other accountable 

Make sure each group member is clear about what they’re contributing and when they need to have it done. If someone’s part must be done before you can start, then keep in contact, follow up, and hold them accountable so everything stays on track. Maintain communication and don’t assume that silence means your group members are working. Weekly check-ins are great so you know where everything’s at.

Set aside time for editing and collation 

Everyone has their sections to work on and a deadline to work towards. However, unexpected things happen. And because I care about you all, I don’t want your group scrambling to get things done last minute. Therefore, my advice is to set a due date for the entire assignment that is at least a few days earlier than the actual due date. That way, the appointed editor has time to work through sections, check for structure and grammar, and (most importantly) make sure the diverse writing styles flow.  

Be honest but respectful in your group member evaluations

Sometimes—no matter what you do—you’re stuck in a horrible situation where you’re doing everything and/or you’re working with people who are rude and disrespectful. When you’re given the opportunity to evaluate your group members, be both honest AND respectful. Give your professor a rundown of the experience, who pulled their weight and who didn’t. But don’t include anything that shows a personal vendetta or resentment. If there was one bad apple in the group, chances are, other members will also submit negative reviews about that person. On the other hand, if you’ve had a really positive experience, be upfront about that too! 

Group work is often a hit or miss. But having a strategy will give you a better chance for a positive experience!

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.