BY JOSHUA LIM
Group Assignments – for some, they enjoy it: it works for them, and there is this queer yet familiar sense that the burden is easier when more people are there to share in it. For most however, it is something that is worthy of dread. Especially group assignments where you cannot choose your assignment partners.
For those students who dread it, below are 7 useful attitudes to follow; it does not necessarily make such tasks easier and it does not provide a solution, but it will at least make the experience more palatable.
Accept it and stop complaining
Group assignments, group work, team work, is something all of us must tackle. Deal with it! Also remember that you have other obligations, as do other team members. Sometimes you will carry the team, and at other times they, or at least one of them, will carry you. That’s life.
So, stop complaining and get on with the work. The sooner the better. Otherwise, you will just drag your feet or stress throughout the process; and for some, they spend more time worrying about other’s performance than they do on their own work. Then suddenly, the worst is upon you. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, do not trap yourself in it.
Win as a Team; Lose as a Team
You are a team. For the most part, you will win as a team, and you will lose as a team. Any attitude to the contrary will just create a toxic relationship between members, and avoiding this toxicity is in everyone’s best interest.
This does not take away from the possibility that sometimes you will carry others, and they might carry you. Obviously, there will be times where someone does not meet the minimum, or sometimes they are just a hinderance. Yet focusing on their faults will only make things worse, and takes up too much precious resources. Keeping this in mind is a guaranteed healthier position to take.
Following on from the first two attitudes, the purpose of this is to remove the likelihood of a toxic group culture. Trust in your team mates to support you, and above all, trust yourself that you can do the same for them.
Get yourself organised first
It is a pointless endeavour to constantly allocate effort into organising the other team members and ensuring the group progress is on track, if you yourself are in a chaos. You, and the rest of your team, must bring order to yourselves first, and that attitude and stability will be shared with the rest of the team. Know what you need to do, ensure you have the capability to do the tasks, and execute them with precision to the best if your abilities. Everything else will come naturally.
Communicating is important. Informing others of your revelations through research, conveying problems and solutions, and instructing each other on what needs to be done. All of this is important.
Yet, many forget about the other aspect of communication, arguable more important than the rest: Active Listening.
Often, much is said, but nothing is absorbed and plans failed to be actioned or are actioned incorrectly because no one listened. Spend some time and effort to take a step back and shut up. Comprehend what is being said and understand what others are thinking. Assess, and then respond.
Do this, and you might even discover what has not been said. Most of the time, the silence is more telling than the noise.
Back Up Plan
Do not be naïve. Despite the first five attitudes, things have not worked out; and that’s okay. Sometimes, members might leave the unit or the course altogether, and sometimes they simply just let you down. So, be prepared for the unexpected, have a backup plan.
You should prepare for having the need to do more work and pick up the slack, or be prepared that the assignment will take a drastically different direction because of the absence of someone else.
On occasion, it might be important to inform the lecturer, or otherwise, of the non-participation of a group member. Similar to ‘Back Up Plan’, despite the first five attitudes, which mandate the showing of compassion towards a struggling team member, you should consider the option to sever ties with that member. They are dead weight, and will only lead the entire team down the path of failure.
This does not mean that you marginalise or have scorn to a member with lesser understanding, skill, or time. It does however require proper reflection, and a determination: if “outing” a member is in the best interest of the group, and not just for yourself.
In fact, this might even call for a larger scope of people to be considered. If this individual is excused, it promotes improper conduct. Worse, that person might do it again, this time to someone else.