By PLA Alanna
When I found out about the group projects I needed to do for my courses this semester, I felt the chill of a visit from the Ghost of Group Projects Past. The last time I had worked on a group project was in high school, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to go down that road again. I prefer to work independently, or at least that’s what I told myself.
Having completed one group project this semester (remember, my first one since high school!) I feel I should pass on my wisdom:
- When you first meet your group, learn everyone’s name and use these names. This probably sounds silly, but people respond better and more openly to their name.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Even before your very first meeting, prepare yourself before you go to it. Read the assignment, try to understand it and make notes. Write down any questions or ideas you have. Time is precious, and with group projects it is priceless. With everyone’s different schedules, meeting will be difficult, so it is imporatnt that when you do meet you are in a position to get things accomplished. Before every meeting try to have some kind of game plan as to what everyone should do ahead of time and what you will work on during that meeting.
- If you have an idea, share it – even if you’re not sure about it. Not all good ideas sound good at first, and not even all good ideas will necessarily pan out. Brainstorming is a wonderful thing, and you never know what your idea might spark in someone else.
- Make your criticism constructive. If you find something you don’t like that was completed by someone else, tell them what you don’t like about it and tell them what you do like about it (there is always something). This way, you’re giving them a starting point to make their work better – which will benefit the group. On the flip side, if you receive criticism that is not so constructive, try not to take it personally. You are working with real people who have real lives with stress and everyone has different ways of dealing with stress. On the plus side, you will now understand the value of constructive criticism!
- Ask questions. Never be afraid of sounding stupid in front of your peers. If you ignore questions you have, it could end up having a big impact on the project later on when it will be more difficult to address.
- Meet as often as possible. Technology is wonderful, but it can’t replace face-to-face conversations. The meaning behind something can be difficult to convey over email or Facebook, and it’s easier to communicate when you can see everyone and have what you’re working on in front of you. On that note…
- Be prepared to make sacrifices. Meeting at a time that works for everyone will be difficult. If you’ve said you can’t meet at a particular time because you’re meeting up with friends or because you like to sleep in, try and find it within your flexible heart to change your plans.
- When you are finished with the project, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Taking time to note approaches that went well and strategies that you can use next time will be worth far more than any grade you walk away with.
Good luck and enjoy the experience!