group work

Works Well with Others: Why Group Projects Matter

It happens every time: your teacher assigns a group project and puts you with someone who contributes little to nothing. “Oh yeah, just put my name on it.” Lazybones gets full credit for doing zilch. The experience makes you think that group projects should have no part of the modern high school experience.

Yes, group projects as we know them need some tweaks. (There are lots of things teachers can do to ensure that everyone participates, but that’s an article just for them.) At their core, though, group projects matter and can play a valuable role in the learning experience.

If you’ve had a few lousy group projects, don’t stop reading just yet. Let me show you how group project success can have some happy side effects for your present and future selves. 

Group Projects Prepare You for Real Life

No matter what you do for a living, your professional success rides on working well with other people. Even I, working from home, always interact with my clients through email and phone calls. Just like at an office, everyone’s success depends on, you guessed it, everyone being on the same page and working together.

Your career might be 8+ years down the road, so here are a few ways that participating in group projects can help you TODAY:

  • “Works well with others” is an excellent line that college admission counselors want to see in a recommendation letter. That’s why I put it in the title!
  • Group work plays a significant role in extracurricular activities and volunteering.
  • Working in groups exposes you to different viewpoints and personality types.

To expand a bit more on that last point, different personality types means that you’ll regularly come across people whose personality types don’t match yours. Though this difference can cause conflict, it’s also a valuable opportunity to build your interpersonal skills.

Group Projects Build Your Interpersonal Skills

Let’s get back to the group member who does nothing. How would you react to this situation? Would you tattle on him, ignore him, try to engage him, or something else entirely? Your first reaction plays a significant role in how that person approaches the rest of the project. Now, don’t blame yourself if that person won’t budge no matter what, but here are some things to do to show your group project meddle and encourage everyone to do their part:

  • Ask everyone what part of the project matches their strengths or interests.
  • Ask for everyone’s input/advice on how the group should accomplish its goal(s).
  • Split into smaller groups. For example, if your group has four people, pair up to divide the project’s responsibilities. That way, no one can ‘fall through the cracks.’

If someone still won’t participate, don’t escalate the situation, but document what each group member contributed (or didn’t) to the final product.

If you’re not a leader, that fine. As long as you’re a team player, you’ve done your part. After all, you still have plenty of time to hone your leadership skills throughout the rest of high school and college.

Before wrapping up, let’s discuss one final piece of the group project puzzle that should help you long after high school graduation. 

Organization

Group projects require more advanced organizational skills than you might need if you tackled the same project on your own. Although you may consider yourself a master organizer, finding yourself having to track others’ progress and keep up with your own work can challenge even the best students.

There’s an easy way to solve this problem, something that works just as well in the classroom as it will in your future work environment. Imagine your group has a project and that you have three class periods to complete it. At the beginning of the project, have everyone set a goal. Someone in the group writes down each goal. At the end of the period, everyone reports back. Just like before, someone writes down every person’s progress. Some people might have worked ahead, others right on target, and others behind. As you repeat this process for days two and three, you can refer back to these notes to suggest quick and effective solutions:

  • Have someone who worked ahead assist someone who’s behind at the beginning of the next class.
  • Ask the people who are behind to finish up their daily goal as homework.

More importantly, by keeping track of everyone’s progress, it’s impossible to be blindsided by someone not pulling their weight.

Final Thoughts

Group projects aren’t perfect, but they teach you plenty of valuable life skills that can both raise your chances of college admission success and prepare you for just about any work environment.

5 Tips for Finding Success in Group Projects

Group projects, some students like them and some do not! There are both advantages and disadvantages to group projects.

A disadvantage of group projects is if one member slacks, the whole group suffers. Sometimes, one person does most of the work, or the final product is not as complete as it could have been because everyone did not give 100%.

Advantages of group projects are seen most in the final results of the project. If all group members worked together and gave 100%, it will show in the final result, and most likely earn a high grade.

A survey was sent out to myKlovr users asking if they love or hate group projects. Out of 267 responses, 45% like group projects, 46% do not like group projects, and 9% are neutral.

 

Bar graph showing myKlovr survey results.

 

To make the most of group projects, no matter what the circumstances, myKlovr has come up with a list of five tips for students to find success when working in group projects.

1. Organization

  • Setting goals within your group will keep everyone on task and allow for the project to be broken up into smaller pieces.
  • Assigning tasks, give everyone something to do, making sure everything that needs to be done will get done.

2. Communication

  • Stay connected via text, e-mail, or group chats (GroupMe) to have a place where you can reach group members easily to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Listening is an important part of communication, quite literally. There is no point in talking to group members if they are not going to listen.
  • Don’t hesitate to speak up if something is not working or someone isn’t pulling their weight. Squashing the problem ASAP will only help the group in the long run.

3. There is no “I” in “team”

  • Work together, one person can not and should not do all the work. A team or group works best when everyone is giving 100%.
  • Everyone has different perspectives and opinions, use this to your group’s advantage.

4. Accountability

  • Taking ownership when you personally have done something wrong can show your respect to your group members and that you are trying to make it better for the future.
  • Showing responsibility for your work/actions will make the group dynamic run smoother.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold your group members responsible for their deadlines and tasks.

5. Learn

  • Always learn something in whatever you do, either from the topic of the assignment or about how you personally work best in groups.
  • Take note of what has worked and what hasn’t, will make your next group project better than the last.
  • Learning skills from group projects will help you in the professional world later on in life.

 

Group projects are important not only for school assignments but for your future as well. If they seem like a burden now, think about what you will learn in the long run, such as communication, teamwork, and accountability.

Participating in group projects prepare students for the working world/college. Similarly, the assignment may not be interesting or someone in the group may not be your favorite person.

The struggles students face when doing group projects do happen in the real world, but never the less, the project must get done.

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