By Melissa Turek, October 2015
So, you look at your syllabus and see the dreaded words, group project. Your palms become sweaty, your heart races, and your stomach does a backflip. Anxiety is an entirely normal stress response to finding out that your grade is not completely within your control. Here are my tips for turning your stress into success.
1. Communication is key
Keeping an open line of communication with the other students in your group is essential. In my last group project, we all exchanged phone numbers so we could text each other. It works out well for last-minute changes or questions. Some professors will even use your group communication as part of the grade. They don’t grade the content of the discussion just the amount. So, lots of communication equals a better grade.
2. Strong leadership is essential
Some courses will require you to pick a leader for the whole project, while others will require that the group switch leaders for different segments of the project. If you are the leader, take the lead! Your group will be looking to you for guidance. Figure out what needs to be done to make the project successful and then evenly split the work amongst the group. It’s helpful to ask your group as a whole to give you their strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can better assign tasks. For instance, if someone says they are good with PowerPoints, then maybe they should be the ones formatting the finished product.
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3. Provide appropriate deadlines
Make sure to give everyone deadlines and hold them accountable for those deadlines. Typically, there is one person tasked with taking all the separate pieces of a project and putting it into one cohesive presentation. You want to make sure that the deadlines allow enough time for any changes or revisions, as well as for the project to be put together. Nothing is worse than doing things at the last minute in a group project. It is always better to get it all done ahead of schedule. That way, you can work on polishing this finished product. A little hint, professors, love PowerPoints with lots of color and pictures; those little extras can make the difference.
4. We all want a good grade
If you happen to be in a group where the leader is not doing all the things I mentioned above, then it is ok to step up as an informal leader and try to get your group on track. Remember, everyone in the group wants the same thing, a good grade, and are usually willing to do the work for it if given direction. I can tell you from experience that a group with poor leadership will be in trouble; work doesn’t get done on time or is missed entirely. I was in a class where a group was in danger of not passing the course because of poor communication regarding a group project.
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5. Ask the professor for help with any issues
Finally, if your group is struggling and attempts to work it out amongst yourselves have failed, then you can always contact your professor and state your concerns. They are there to help and can usually facilitate a solution to the problem. Remember, everyone else is just as apprehensive as you are. So, take a deep breath, relax, and try to enjoy the experience.
About the Author
Melissa is a 39-year-old, soon to be graduate of Utica College. She lives and works in upstate NY, near Albany.