On group projects

At the beginning of autumn semester, I was both excited and anxious when I found out that my second year would involve group projects. Essentially, second year Psychology students are being arbitrarily assigned to a group of five and are tasked to work together on a psychology research topic that we are interested in. The exciting part about this is that I get to meet new people within my course! Also, we are finally given the opportunity to plan, conduct and present a psychology research on our own.

However, at the same time, I was anxious that I might not get along with my group mates due to cultural barriers, and this could affect our teamwork (and ultimately our assessment). Nevertheless, having accepted that university is place to challenge myself before stepping into the real society, I brace myself for what is to come.

There’s one group project for each semester. I have successfully completed my autumn semester project and now am halfway through spring’s. Based on my recent experiences, I would like to share a few tips when working in groups.

Communication

When working in groups, we have to acknowledge that different people will bring in different perspectives and ideas. Therefore, as cliche as it sounds, communication is the key. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or being ridiculed. Use your voice to bring your ideas to the table, thereby allowing everyone to be able to understand you ideas and give constructive criticisms (this is where communication plays a part too!). Furthermore, better outcomes often stem from discussions, where different ideas and perspectives are pitted against each other, debated, and refined.

Being an introvert, I found it difficult to voice my opinion during the first few meetings with my group members. Often I sat through the meetings and just listen to what others have to say. I have ideas of my own, and opinions for the ideas presented but I was just too shy. To find my way around this, I typically messaged my group mates before and after the meetings. They are kind enough to acknowledge and address my comments and I really appreciate them for that.

However, I acknowledged that not giving input during the meetings can be counterproductive. Therefore, I’m currently in the process of training myself to be more outspoken and be daring to speak my mind.

Meetings

Ideally, meetings are where all the possible ideas are debated, expectations are set and tasks are divided. To achieve this, it is important to come out with an agenda and that preparations have been taken by individual members prior to the meeting.

At the starting phase of my group project, everyone was too shy to initiate any actions prior and during the meeting. As a result our first few meetings ended with relatively little results and in some instances, we digressed into discussing something completely irrelevant (Pop Tarts Wednesday?). Hence, set an agenda to prevent wasting time! Additionally, let each member to have a chance at chairing the meetings. This helps in nurturing leadership skills and everyone are able to get the most of this project.

Google Drive

Personally, I find Google Drive very useful when it comes to group projects. It saves the hassle of having to meet up over relatively minor things as discussion and updates can take place on shared documents uploaded on drive. For example, if you wish to make a suggestion on a section your group mate is working on, you can do so by dropping a comment within that document and everyone would be able to address it. Doing so is more professional than using any other platforms (say, FB messenger) and instead of letting anyone’s constructive comments being drowned in floods of messages, addressing these issues via Google Drive provides a more substantial way in improving communications and teamwork.

Groups, whether they are personal or professional, are indispensable element in our lives. This is so because humans are social animals and great things are rarely achieved alone. At the same time, employers value qualities such team working and leadership, which can only be acquired through experiences working in groups. So, the next time a group project is part of your course assessment, rather than worrying about the possible social loafers in your group, take this as an opportunity to elevate your personal development skills and a chance to meet more people! 🙂

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