Working effectively in groups with others is essential to success in many contexts. When it comes to group work in college, many students tend to view the idea of collaborative assignments as a burden because of bad group experiences they may have had previously. However, when a group does function effectively towards its goals, it is a very rewarding experience for all. It is important to remember that even if group work may not be one’s favorite, it is often an essential piece of most workplace environments that students will find themselves in after graduating. I would like to share a few tips that I’ve found helpful throughout my various team experiences that will hopefully help the idea of group work seem less daunting
1. Define goals and expectations
The first step in successful group collaboration is working to get every member on the same page. The best way to do this is by establishing clear goals and key expectations from group members to follow. Use the SMART goals concept (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, & Time bound) to set goals for your work that are realistic and practical for all group members. In terms of group expectations, it is important to settle on a time to meet and collaborate that suits everyone’s schedules early. This will help your group settle in to a routine and allow relevant tasks and deadlines to be assigned during each of these meetings.
2. Assign roles
Sometimes with group work, members can struggle because they feel as if they do not have a defined purpose or direction within the team. To alleviate these problems, it is a good idea to assign roles to group members. These roles can be anything from a defined leader to a notetaker or timekeeper. These roles can also be created to fit the specific needs of the group and assignment. Defined roles give group members more direction about what they can do to contribute the group’s efforts as a whole. When assigning roles, group leaders should seek to play to their peers’ strengths and interests which will increase engagement from everyone involved.
3. Stay organized
When working in a group, it can sometimes be easy for things to get cluttered, causing confusion for many group members. Another key to effective group collaboration is to stay organized on all fronts. Organization begins with storing all group files in a common place such as a shared Google Drive folder. Additionally, your group can use a task management software such as Monday.com, Basecamp, or Trello to assign and stay on top of important tasks. Another important element of staying organized as a group is holding regular group meetings. Frequent group meetings enable the group to stay on the same page, deliver any important updates, and assign attainable tasks to be completed by the next meeting time. A group that is organized will be able to spend less time on small details, so they can direct more of their attention into creating the best work possible!
4. Always practice being a good teammate
At the end of the day, effective group work comes down to how the individuals communicate with each other. Being a good teammate within a group means practicing active listening, being open to providing and receiving constructive criticism, and encouraging a positive attitude amongst the group as a whole. Positive and productive communication within a group can go a long way and inspire members to strive for success working together instead of independently.