The student’s guide to surviving group assignments

August 10, 2015
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Hijacked and Post-it® have teamed up to bring you the lowdown on how to master the art of collaboration so you can successfully navigate the complex world of group assignments. 

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University is a battlefield. In between the social events and merrymaking, there’s the dirty business of actual learning to get through.

You’re down in the trenches with your classmates, and all that stands between you and a qualification is a daunting stack of assignments and exams. Some of these you’ll face alone, while others must be tackled together. But let’s try not to think of group assignments as the enemy. Here’s our guide to navigating the complex world of group assignments and achieving world domination as a result. You’re welcome.

Collaboration is the spice of life

Learning to work well with others is an essential life skill, and this is why university teaching folk make us do group assignments (and perhaps they also enjoy the reduced marking load it affords them).

Collaborating on group work strengthens communication and negotiation abilities, encourages good old-fashioned cooperation, and teaches us to become good communicators – all important vocational skills us students can confidently carry over into the workforce.

Consider the pros

There are benefits to working with a random sample of peers. Assuming you’re not unlucky enough to be lumped in with the really random ones – The Know-It-All, The Crybaby, The Mute – you should be capable of rallying together to get this sucker done and dusted. Because you’re all in it together. Support each other and focus on working as a team.

If it’s an oral presentation, think about how great it is that you don’t have to stand up solo in front of the class like a nervous dork. In theory, you might not have to do as much work for a group project – it allows you to share the load. A group provides extra ideas, extra brainpower, and a diverse range of specialist skills. And working alone is boring compared to the social aspect of meeting with your group.

How to deal with the cons

Trying to arrange suitable meeting times for a bunch of people who may have wildly different timetables can be a pain. And while our aforementioned theory might be nice, the reality of group assignments is that the weight of the work may not always be equally distributed between group members – there’s usually someone who doesn’t contribute, choosing instead to ride on the coat tails of the high achievers. Some students may drag the group down, while others are classic Control Freaks trying to micromanage the operation.

Stay calm. Imagine you’re playing the lead in a Hollywood thriller and channel those hostage negotiation skills. Communication is key to survival in group assignment situations – be clear and direct with your fellow student soldiers. If someone’s not pulling their weight, politely pull them up on it. If The Know-It-All is taking over, bring a “talking stick” to the next meet-up to ensure everyone gets a say. Stand your ground and emerge triumphant.

Lay strong foundations

I hate to be the one to say it, but your group won’t get anything done if you hold your meetings at the pub. Be sensible: use a library meeting room, or gather at someone’s house after class. Get the work done first, and then reward yourselves with a cheeky beer or six.

Don’t attempt to go in to battle without a solid plan. At the very first group meeting, create a schedule that’ll allow you to realistically meet the project deadline. Discuss group members’ strengths and hidden talents, and be sure to make good use of them. For example, if someone has filmmaking skills, could you add a video element to your presentation? Is someone else a whiz with Excel? They can be in charge of creating killer charts and graphs to display your findings.

Designate tasks and share regular progress reports with each other at each meeting. And be sure to arm yourselves with the right tools for the job: nutritious snacks and a stack of good stationery are the keys to success.

If conflict does arise

Talk it out. Try to remember that you’re adults. Is it really worth getting upset over? It’s not like anyone’s going to lose a limb over this, are they?

Get this group assignment done and move on. There are plenty of other battles to fight.

Phoebe Hartley

Phoebe makes films, eats dumplings and studies journalism. She tweets sporadically at @phoebehartley.

Image: Jacob Botter, Flickr Creative Commons license

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There are a number of different strategies and processes you can use to collaborate effectively. So when you and your study buddies are doing that next group assignment, make sure you check out these tips from the Post-it® Brand. Click here to unlock something amazing.

The student’s guide to surviving group assignments

The student’s guide to surviving group assignments

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