Study Skills: Team Work Skills for Group Projects

Written by Kristin Feenstra

In a perfect world, group projects would be no problem.

There would be no conflict, no slacking, everyone would contribute and things would run smoothly according to schedule. Yeah right… in a perfect world.

Group projects breed terror in most students’ hearts. “Anything but group projects,” we plead. “I’ll work extra hard and do it myself but please don’t make me have to work in a group.”

The reality is that you can’t get away from group projects in university or college. So what’s a student to do?

Here’s what some students had to say about surviving and thriving in your group work:

  • “For starters, make a team charter,” says Becky, a British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Financial Management student.Before you even start working on your project, sit down with your teammates and create a charter that encompasses things like:
    • the goals and objectives of the group;
    • how you will allow each person to equally communicate their views (clear communication is key in successful group work!);
    • information on when and where your group is going to meet on a regular basis, and contact information for each group member;
    • a “kick-out” clause, clearly stating what will happen if people do not show up for the meetings or don’t do their work;
    • and how you will resolve conflict should it arise.
  • Exercising flexibility will make a difference. “Being patient is huge. Don’t take things so personally when people shoot your ideas down,” Ying from University of British Columbia says.BCIT Refrigerator Repair student Sarah adds, “Listen to people -don’t always think that you are the only one who is right.””Compromising is key,” agrees Breanne from Trinity Western University. “But make sure you don’t do all the work yourself.”
  • Determine strengths and work with them. First, figure out what needs to be done on the project. Then assign each person in your group a responsibility according to their abilities.Vic, a Business student from University College of the Fraser Valley believes it’s important and helpful to find out what people are good at and then assign roles accordingly. For example, someone who is good at writing reports, but hates research should not be stuck doing all the research. Allow each person to develop his or her abilities within your group.
  • Set deadlines for each group member to get their assignments done by. This establishes clear boundaries and helps to prevent stress caused by leaving everything to the last minute.
  • Take the lead if needed. So what if you get stuck in a group with a couple slackers in it who really don’t care about how the project goes?”Become the group leader,” says Rose, a Business Management student at BCIT. By taking leadership, you will get the chance to expand your leadership capabilities and also ensure that work gets done.And what if your other group members have nothing to contribute?”Usually everyone has something to say,” Rose says, “But if group member aren’t responding, encourage them to contribute by asking them directly by name for their ideas.”
  • Finally, stay positive about your group. Refrain from gossiping about other members and try to help one another as much as you can. After all, who knows? You may even come out of the experience with a friend or two.

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