When you ask university students of any course, subject or year what they found most stressful throughout their time studying, there’s one common theme that will constantly bounce up. Group assignments, when completed equally, early and fairly, are worthwhile and actually really helpful to your learning. However, when you’re pitted into a group with students who have no care for the topic or just don’t want to do any work for their mark, group projects can turn into a one-person band.
We've compiled some tips to make sure you get through group assignments with satisfactory marks and your sanity still intact.
Plan everything out as early as you can
The best thing you can do from the get-go is to assign roles or parts to group members. Doing it in person in your class is so much easier — it stops lazy members from ignoring you or avoiding you in future classes or on social media. By setting clear parts of the work to each student equally, it removes all confusion and destroys a myriad of excuses that group members can use for completing no work. If you can set boundaries early, then it is easier to get the work done as soon as possible and remove the majority of stress. Also, by doing this early, you can always get feedback from your teacher to ensure you are on the right track with your assignment.
Talk to your teacher and get their feedback
Group assignments are often very vague and broad — you receive a scope of choices to focus on and then are left to your own devices for weeks on end. An easy way to make sure you’re on the right track and are on the way to getting top marks is to consult your teacher or tutor in class. By running them through your group’s ideas and telling them how you’re breaking up the work, they may reassure all your doubts and send you confidently on your way to get the work done. On the contrary, they’ll also be an enormous help in pointing out what you could fix or change early, removing the stress of being told the night before the assignment’s due that you have made a critical error. If you haven’t already cottoned on, the goal is to remove all stress and pain early so that you can get all parts done equally and to a standard you are all confident with.
Find one person that you know cares about their studies
This is normally extremely hard, but it’s worth a shot. Often the groups you’re in are randomly allocated by teachers to get you out of your comfort zone. However, sometimes they’ll allocate you based on who you sit with, or who you choose to work with. If the latter is the case, then you have the chance to pick people who you know will hold up their end of the bargain.
If you can, find people who are genuinely interested in the subject/ course and are good workers. It may be hard to tell, but usually the people who answer questions and show enthusiasm in the room often are the best to work with, because they’ll be on the same page as you and will be looking to get the assignment done efficiently and to a high standard. It’s difficult to do, but if you can manage it then the group work will become so much easier.
Keep in constant contact with group members
Group assignments are usually due long after they are set and when groups are formed. Therefore, make sure you get contact details/ social media profiles off your members so you can set up a group and keep in touch. The easiest way to keep people on task and working is to consistently talk about the project and provide help or feedback for each other. It’s key not to leave it to the last minute. By striking up a good rapport between each other, editing your partners’ work and putting it all together for one great assignment should be a lot less of a hassle.
What to do when others aren't pulling their weight
Only do what you have been assigned to do – if other members aren’t pulling their weight, go to your teachers. This is only for the worst-case scenario. Despite all of your efforts and messages to a certain group member, they just won’t respond. Even worse, they may say they’ll do work yet just never do. If this happens, don’t take on the responsibility of doing all of their work too. It’s often not worth it and it’s never fair on you.
The best thing you can do is to let your teacher know early what is going on. They may contact the student themselves, or they may take this into account when it comes to marking and not be so harsh on the one section they know was meant for that group member. The worst results often come from one or two members doing the work for everyone, only to get a lousy mark because they’ve had too much to do in too little time. If worst comes to worst, let other people know so that you don’t have to pull all-nighters to rush some silly group assignment work.