Life

How to Survive Your Group Project

It’s never easy. The teacher labels the project “group work” and your stomach sinks. She puts you in assigned groups and you don’t end up with a single friend—or—she lets you choose and that just happens to be the class you don’t talk to anyone in. Either way, there are now more people to please and more ideas to consider. 

Education Students People Knowledge Concept
By: Cortlin Chavis

It’s never easy. The teacher labels the project “group work” and your stomach sinks. She puts you in assigned groups and you don’t end up with a single friend—or—she lets you choose and that just happens to be the class you don’t talk to anyone in. Either way, there are now more people to please and more ideas to consider. 

So, why have group work in the first place? 

I asked the teacher I’m closest to, my mom, and she said that she uses group work so her students can realize who has leadership roles, how to compromise and negotiate, and other skills needed later in life. My AP U.S. History teacher would use it as a tool to guide us in to new and difficult assignments; instead of us struggling individually, we could ask one another things we weren’t clear on. 

Everyone is different when it comes to school work, but there are about five different personality types I’ve noticed in any group project team: 

The Dictator/Control Freak: This student is ready to go. They already have a “great” idea and know just how to execute it. They need everyone to do exactly as they command in order for the project to get done the “correct” way. 

  • Pros: Someone tells you what to do if you didn’t hear the teacher’s instructions. And hey, at least you know the work is getting done! 
  • Cons: You might not agree with their vision for the project; their stress makes you stressed. 
  • How to deal: Compromise and be a mediator. 

The Lazy Boy: He’s on his phone, leaving to get food, asleep in the corner, talking with a different group across the room… 

  • Pros: You don’t have to worry about his opinion on how to do the project. 
  • Cons: There will be about no help from him whatsoever (but maybe this is really a pro?). 
  • How to deal: If you really need help, give him a simple task/busy work that needs to get done, like cutting out pictures (the dictator will probably tell him what to do). Otherwise, let him go. 

The Clueless Yet Talkative Girl : I’d say this is the most dangerous. She will try to help. Really. But most of what she says won’t be useful, or would’ve been useful if only she said it several steps ago. She’ll turn to stories to “participate” and you’ll be trying to conduct an experiment while listening to what happened at her lake house last Sunday. 

  • Pros: You won’t be lonely. 
  • Cons: More distractions. 
  • How to deal: Put her to work (or let the dictator do it), as long as you trust her to do it the way your group discussed and not veer off track.

The Procrastinator: You could ask them every day for a week, or every ten minutes during one class period, but they still won’t be done with their share of the work until right before the due date. 

  • Pros: You’ll be really happy when the work is finally delivered. 
  • Cons: You’ll be really stressed until it is. 
  • How to deal: Keep asking about it. If you have some time and are worried about it, offer to help. They’ll probably say no thanks and then keep procrastinating, but at least it’s a nice way to remind them. 

The Presenter: You’ll get no work out of this one, other than their offer to present the work (which they had no part of) to the class. 

  • Pros: You don’t have to present! 
  • Cons: You did more work. 
  • How to deal: If you think it’s an even trade, go for it. If the work isn’t great, at least the attention won’t be on you for it during the presentation. 

It’s never easy (and if you think it is, maybe you’re the lazy boy!), but these skills are important to learn since you’ll be working with other people for the rest of your life.Remember that whatever role you play affects your group as a whole, so stay calm and reasonable, a mediator in the darkest hours of the project, and you’ll make it through! 

Cortlin is a senior in Auburn, Alabama. She is currently learning about the next steps in her education: taking exams, getting a summer job, preparing for college, selecting a major, and so on. She hopes any knowledge she gains in these areas can be transferred into advice for readers, and hopes her perspective can offer a little insight!

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