Working in a group is a challenge, sometimes, whether you are a college student or an adult in the workforce. Not to put even more pressure on you, but what if your final grade depends on that group work? You can handle it and even do well if you use these tips for working on a group project.

Why group work?

If your instructor has assigned a group project, most likely it is because they want to reinforce communication and collaboration—both are valuable skills for college students to take out into the real world. But what if your fellow students dump all the work on you or do work that isn’t to your standards, affecting your final grade?

Authors Marianne Schneider Corey, Gerald Corey, and Cindy Corey addressed the importance of communication for successful group work in their text, Groups: Process and Practice, ninth edition, writing, “The more clearly you state your expectations as early as possible, the better you will be able to plan” (Corey, 148). This applies to the type of task-oriented group work that you will find as a college student: determine and communicate your expectations for each member of the group, and you’ll have a clearer idea of how the project will go.

Grading group work

Before you panic, start by asking your instructor or professor how they plan to grade the group work. Ideally, they will not actually be giving a group grade to the group project. Typically this is viewed as a bad idea because:

  • Two people in two different groups could have learned the same amount, but get different grades.
  • A group grade on a project doesn’t offer individual and actionable feedback to each student to help determine who has learned what. Instead, it prioritizes project completion over everything else.
  • Some students may not work as hard, while others are forced to pick up the slack when only one grade is issued for a group project.

Grading and Group Work: How Do I Assess Individual Learning When Students Work Together? by Susan M. Brookhart suggested basing group work grades on either cooperative learning, which “builds individual accountability into the requirements for instruction and assessment,” or group work, which “involves building individual assessment opportunities into group work and assessing process skills separately from achievement of learning outcomes.”

Surviving group work

Looking for some final tips for surviving group work when it determines your final grade? Here are the top five things to remember:

  1. Choose members wisely. If you are able to select your group members, opt for ones that you know will carry their weight.
  2. Determine how you will communicate. If everyone is good staying in touch via email, great. It doesn’t matter if you all text or Tweet, just pick a method of communicating and stick with it.
  3. Set deadlines. It is never too early to start creating to-dos and deadlines for your group work.
  4. Create a time cushion at the end. It won’t hurt to leave a couple of extra days at the end of the project to tie up loose ends, so set your deadlines EARLY.
  5. Ask for help if you need it. Your professor wants your group work to be a success and for everyone involved to get a good final grade. If you have questions, ask them.

Do you have any tips for managing group work when it determines your final grade? Let us know in the comments.

Reference: Corey, Marianne Schneider, Gerald Corey, and Cindy Corey. 2014. Groups: Process and Practice, 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.