Ask any student and, for the majority, they will tell you how group work is utterly dreaded. The mere mention of it has students grabbing their closest ‘friends’ and vowing that this time things will be different and it won’t be so stressful and disorganised. I have very mixed views on group work as I’m a big believer that the grades I receive should be solely reflective and reliant on my own level of effort and ability, whilst at the same time I quite enjoy sharing views and ideas as part of a group to achieve something. Since being a student at UCB, I have had group work experiences at each end of the scale and I’m going to share some of my thoughts and advice in this post.
Last year (my second year), we had a group project for Applied Marketing Research and our lecturer made the decision to draw names from a hat to create groups. I won’t go into the details but my lowest point, and my greatest frustrations with the group I was part of, led me to a total breakdown (hearty sobs included) on the main concourse at New Street station on Easter Monday. For those who know me, I’m not much of a crier so to get to this point showed just how difficult the whole experience had been. The group of five was due to meet on that day to travel to Walsall and undertake our data collection – a fundamental part of our assignment – and yet there I stood, alone, and with little or no contact from my fellow group members as to whether they were coming or not. This leads to my first suggestions about group work:
- Communicate – most students now have Facebook or WhatsApp, so create a mini group and share messages that everyone can see and respond to.
- Be punctual – if the group has agreed to meet at a specified time, date and place then just be there; if the group has set individual tasks to be completed by a certain time then just get your bit done.
- Delegate – I was chosen as group leader for this project but even without a specified leader, responsibility needs to be taken to split tasks between the group. Talk to each other, find out what people are best at and are interested in and try to match tasks to the most suitable member.
This week saw our final Strategic Management presentation – the culmination of a number of weeks of group work and three practice presentations. When it came to choosing our group at the start of the semester, it wasn’t about friends, it was about the outcome and how best success could be achieved. Over the semester, tasks have been split, everyone’s done their bit and contributed despite issues with jobs, health and general life and it has been surprisingly plain-sailing. Even down to yesterday morning, when for very acceptable, although not ideal, reasons, two out of five of our group were unable to attend the final presentation at late notice. The three of us remaining re-distributed responsibility for presenting the additional slides and we went up and did ourselves and our group proud. We came away knowing that as a group we’d worked hard, we’d worked towards the same goal and we’d worked to our individual strengths for the benefit of the whole group. From this experience, I will offer the following advice:
- Know your strengths – ‘recruit’ group members who will bring different strengths to the table. If you love reading and research, then find someone who is great with analysis of data; if you are great with Excel, find someone who is great with Powerpoint.
- Work as a team – don’t just separately complete your part and then hope you can copy/paste it together on the day to create a good presentation. We realised with Strat Man that we needed the information from each other to be able to link our themes and analysis so we met regularly as a group to share, discuss and amend our work.
- Don’t panic – student life isn’t straight forward. Many of us have jobs, families and other focuses away from our studies, and so sometimes things still won’t go exactly to plan. I’ll admit, I felt pretty anxious yesterday morning but it was easy to overcome because I thought back over the efforts we’d each put in and I believed that the standard of our work was a solid reflection of what we had achieved.
I don’t know what our final grade will be for yesterday’s presentation, but I can truly say I have enjoyed the experience and I am confident our hard work and good teamwork will pay off. It wasn’t always easy, but where would the fun be in that…?