Whether you’re Type A or Type be-in-the-background-while-everyone-else-works, here are eight tips for keeping your sanity and functioning well in a group.
1. Get started on the right foot. Meet virtually. Make introductions. “Someone should take the initiative, get the ball rolling, and begin ‘jigsawing the work,’” says Lewis, who spearheaded a University-wide effort four years ago to reinvent group assignments to foster greater collaboration and learning.
2. Establish roles. Each group needs an opener, a closer and a project manager — the person who assigns tasks and makes sure everyone is hitting deadlines. “Everyone should leave the first meeting knowing who will do what,” Lewis says. Ideally the “closer” will be the person who is a good writer, can edit the project into one voice, and can apply APA style guidelines. Learning each student’s strength can help establish roles within the group and make the project run smoother.
3. Create deadlines. Make note of deadlines, and enlist everyone in the group to contribute their tasks on time or early. Think of this as handing off a baton, where you’re reaching out to the runner behind you and saying, “Remember, I need this by this time because my piece feeds off of your piece.”
4. Stay focused. If your project is veering off course (or not getting off the ground because of lack of dedication or direction), Lewis recommends getting back to the core of the assignment. “Ask the group questions: What are we trying to do? What do we want this to be? How can we get back to that?”