At some point during your time on campus all college students will be asked to take part in a group project. Working together can be a challenge, but it also can be a very rewarding experience. Read on to learn some tips for making the most of your group project experience.

Working together as a team

Collaborating on a group project as college students is a great way to gain some experience and insight into how to collaborate—something that will serve you well in your future career. Of course, some people will make better teammates than others. Unfortunately, you may not always be able to choose who you will be working together with on a group project. “To Team or Not to Team?” by Brian Fielkow for the January 1, 2016 issue of Ivey Business Journal Online, shared, “According to a recent Google study, how teams work together is more important than who is on a team.”

Fielkow’s advice is geared toward the workplace, but college students can adapt it to themselves:

  • First, try to incorporate people into your group project that have a variety of skills and strengths.
  • Next, establish what the expectations are for the group project in terms of timelines, workloads, etc. in the beginning. Also, decide how you will stay in touch.
  • Finally, begin all gatherings with a check-in to keep each other updated on progress and to hold everyone accountable for their share of the work.

Tips for a group project

You’ve established your members for your group project, you’ve set the deadlines and work has begun. There are additional tips for ensuring your group is successful that can help you. It is a very smart idea to give your group a bit of a cushion at the end of the project in case something unexpected happens, i.e. one member gets sick, someone drops the ball … you get the idea. After all, you are college students and sometimes there will be bumps in the road. Having a few extra days between when you say you will finish and when your group project is actually due will help you manage any unexpected hiccups.

Two other tips for ensuring your group project goes off without a hitch include don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you have a question or to take the lead. Talking to your professor shows that you are serious about working together to get this thing done right, while taking the lead will give you some valuable skills in the areas of time management, motivation, and compromise.

Overcoming obstacles

There are challenges to working together on a group project. Should you encounter something that disrupts the working relationships or the process, what can you do? Whether you are college students or working in your chosen career, one of the best things to do when you experience group dysfunction is to be honest about the issue. Authors Gay Lumsden, Donald Lumsden, and Carolyn Wiethoff offered three suggestions in their book, Communicating in Groups and Teams: Sharing Leadership, Fifth Edition:

  1. Confront the problem or obstacle with tact.
  2. Discuss making a change. The authors wrote, “You may want to talk to members outside the meetings to get their cooperation in changing the norms and attitudes that exclude an individual.” (Lumsden, Lumsden and Wiethoff, 42)
  3. Reach out to the person that is feeling excluded or disconnected.

Everyone involved on a group project can contribute something, although it may take more time to determine the best jobs for some members.

Do you have any proven tips for working together on a group project? Let us know in the comments.

Reference: Lumsden, Gay; Lumsden, Donald; Wiethoff, Carolyn. 2010. Communicating in Groups and Teams: Sharing Leadership, 5th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning