Working with a partner or group in a single classroom session may be a refreshing change of pace for college students. However, extensive group projects often come with the negative stigma of undue stress and group-mates letting you down.

Group work doesn’t have to be a painful experience. Share these tips with your students for mastering dynamic group work strategies.

Group work tips

If you’re someone who avoids group work like the plague and is simply waiting to graduate and be done with it, don’t get too ahead of yourself. The willingness and ability to work well in a group is a valuable skill that is highly sought after in the job market. It gets easier and easier, and group work in college is terrific practice.

According to author Larry J Bailey in his text, Working, 5th Edition, the following guidelines will help you work effectively in a group:

Show your readiness to help the group. A group depends on the willingness of each member to accomplish its work. Do your share of the work on a regular basis, and volunteer your efforts from time to time.

Accept the role the group gives you. Groups have leaders and followers. Followers are often in greater demand. Pitch in and do whatever the group needs.

Carry out your role as best you can. Sports teams often have role players who go into the game to do certain things. Role players make a valuable contribution to a team or group. Do your job well. The group and you will both benefit.

Share your views. Do not hold back on a good idea or suggestion. Your solution may be perfect. Offer your feelings and opinions, even if they differ from what others think. Groups sometimes make poor decisions or choices. If you believe this is the case, say so.

Do not dominate meetings. Someone who talks too much irritates other members. Do not overpower others, even though you may have the right answers or the best ideas.

Accept group decisions. Offer your views during a discussion. But do not argue once the group makes a decision.

Encourage other members. Doing your best on a job will encouage others to do so, too. A kind word from time to time always helps. Remember to pass out compliments and congratulations for a job well done.

Think of solutions, not past problems. Suppose you have a fight with a family member. Dwelling on the problem will not help. Thinking how to solve it will. The same is true in task groups. Focus on finding solutions to problems.

Be proud of group success. Completing a hard task is very satisfying. Should success come, enjoy it with fellow group members. (221-222)

These guidelines can be applied to group work in school as well as when you go on to your first job or internship.

Online group work

If you’re presented with a group project in your online class, or simply find that the best way to meet with your groupmates is virtually, you’ll need to be even more cognizant of these same rules. Even if you never meet in person, you’ll want to establish protocols early on.

Ask your team: What times during the week will we meet? What is our timeline? What resources does everyone have? Who will take the lead on each task?

Many online tools — such as Google Docs™ and Microsoft’s One Drive™ — allow students to work on the same document at the same time. Meanwhile, you can all phone in via Google Hangouts™ or Skype™. Treat these online meeting times as set, required meetings. Be on time, be courteous, and be focused.

Reference: Bailey, Larry J. 2013. Working, 5th Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning

How do you get group projects started out on the right foot? Share your thoughts below.