A common grievance among most college students is required group projects, and Lycoming College is no exception. Every semester, in at least one class, I have been tasked with a group assignment. Although we understand the necessity of learning how to work together, it can be very frustrating when everyone isn’t on the same page. Group projects can either be successful or fail miserably. Looking back on my former group projects, I have bulleted a few things that I find lead to a more successful experience.
The first thing to establish when you get together with your group should be how everyone will be in communication with each other. Most people use their school email, but there is always one member of the group who never checks his/her email. Also, emails are not the fastest means of communication. My best advice? Have a group text message, since most everyone has their phone at hand. Someone doesn’t have a phone? Use Facebook messenger. There is an abundance of different applications and programs that can send and receive messages at lightning speed, so use them!
Also, when you start to plan your group paper or presentation, make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be the person who reminds everyone when something is due. This will also help for accountability of the work. If you kept reminding someone they needed to get five sources for the paper by Monday, then there will be no excuse if they don’t do it. Become the leader you want your group to have, instead of waiting for someone else to step up to the plate.
In my experience with group projects, I found that honesty is key. Group projects bring together students from all levels of the work ethic spectrum, from the perfectionist to “That Guy.” Personally, I think I fall below perfectionist, but I do try my best, and throughout the years, I have built a stronger sense of leadership when it comes to group activities. More often than not, being in a leadership position yields many nights of frustration and extra work. This is where I wished my group members would be more honest. Everyone understands that things happen in our everyday lives. The problem lies in the person who has an excuse for everything. After a while, you can tell when they aren’t being truthful. Not only does this cause tension between group members, but it can be reflected poorly in a peer evaluation. If you forgot or just didn’t do the work, I recommend being honest about it. As long as you are making an honest effort to contribute and be a part of the group, others will work with you.
My last and most important word of advice for group projects is to be creative! Especially if you have the liberty to do so, leave the old powerpoint presentations in the dust and make something fun! I cannot count the amount of dull, lifeless powerpoints I had to listen to in my lifetime. It is important to want your audience to listen and be engaged; that doesn’t happen when you read word-for-word off of a slide show. The most memorable presentations I have seen were games and skits that required audience participation. Don’t fear dressing or acting the part of your presentation- break out those powdered wigs and fake beards! Even if your attempt at something new and interesting fails completely, at least you tried and had fun while doing so! For my last group project in Western Civilization, we redesigned the game of Monopoly and played it in front of the class to present our information. We also incorporated a segment where the audience had to be a jury when someone went to jail. Although our new game lacked in information, doing something new was worth the risk. We were the only group to truly step away from powerpoint presentations, and now I know what I would do differently in the future if I choose to make a game for a project. I believe our creativity saved our grade for the project and we walked away with a solid B.
All in all, group projects help students learn how to work together as a team. In the real world, we will all encounter those who strive for perfection, those who slack off, and everyone else in between. The most valuable thing a person can learn from working in a group is how to manage themselves. Group projects force you to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses because your responsibilities directly affect the others in your group. Hopefully you will consider my points for a successful group experience, so they won’t feel as grueling as before!
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