Group Problem-Solving & Time Management for Students

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The group project is an assignment known to strike fear in the hearts of students. Combining different learning and working styles can be a challenging process, especially if some members aren't doing their part. Nonetheless, cooperating and managing your time can make the process smooth, even when problems arise. By allocating responsibilities, making a schedule and using good communication skills, you can make your group project an experience that satisfyingly promotes cooperation over conflict.

Divide and Conquer

  • Deciding which group members will be responsible for each aspect of the project can prevent problems and confusion. The Utah State University Academic Resource Center suggests spending some time at your first meeting discussing each member's individual talents and abilities. For example, if you're working on a group presentation and two members are particularly interested in technology, you might put them in charge of the PowerPoint presentation, while someone who enjoys art might design visual aids. Group members will be more likely to put forth effort if the project brings together your individual strengths.

The Clock Is Ticking

  • To avoid last-minute work, create a timeline with your group members that includes individual deadlines for each section of the project. If you have a month to create the project, you might all work together on research for a week, then begin your individual tasks. Including group meetings on your timeline can let you meet as a group to discuss what you're working on and create accountability. You can also prevent panic or frustration by completing the project the week before it is due, leaving extra time in case something goes wrong. Making a master document with the timeline and everyone's assigned jobs can also keep everyone on the same page with the project's development.

Creative Communication

  • Another key to time management is to decide on a specific mode of communication. Some group members, for example, may not be able to attend every group meeting due to family or extracurricular commitments; in this case, you might consider using the school's online media platform, like Blackboard, as well as Facebook, Gmail, Skype and other communication applications. If schedule conflicts become an obstacle, you can hold your meetings virtually instead. For further accountability, you might consider requiring all group members to give a weekly report about their portion of the project and what has been accomplished.

Working It Out

  • When a group of people who customarily work alone suddenly have to collaborate, conflict commonly arises. You may have group members who won't participate, try to dominate the project or have different ideas of how to do something. If conflict occurs, try to handle it within your group before seeking assistance from an outside party. You might solve a disagreement by working to reach a compromise, choose another group member to privately speak with someone who is causing problems or try to positively encourage them to engage their talents with the group. If your own initiative doesn't solve the problem, seek advice from your instructor.

References

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