Project after project went by, partner after partner went by, and somehow, each time, I would wonder what the heck we were still doing with all this group project nonsense.
It wasn't until I'd spent far too much time frustrated with group work that I realized there was an overarching point to it all (there always is).
As an MJD major, I've been through many a group project in my two years at St. Mike's. In fact, I just finished up one, and two others are in progress. Like the rest of us, I've had good experiences and bad experiences. And through all of it, I've finally come to realize that there's something very, very different about group work in college as opposed to group work in high school.
In high school, you probably had two weeks' worth of class time to work on a given project. When the bell rang at the end of the day and you got home to do your schoolwork, that project didn't cross your mind until you walked into that classroom again the next day. If your group was being driven aggressively by some bossy-pants, your teacher would see that and correct it. If you were all getting dragged down by some do-nothing stick in the mud, your teacher would see that and correct it. A talkative couple of buddies would never be paired together, your teacher already knew far too much about their in-class dynamic.
...so on and so forth, you know that story.
College group work, as you'll find, proves to be an entirely different story. You get grouped with who you get grouped with, and that project is done on your own time. Before you know it, you have four new numbers programmed in your phone, and you're meticulously combing through each others' schedules to find a time and place to meet and work. In this process, you can usually start to weed out the different types of group-mates that exist throughout your particular group pretty quickly...
1.) The One Who Takes Charge
This "taking charge" can be in either a good way or a bad way. They might be forced to take charge because no one is stepping up to the plate with any ideas, or they might be the type that needs to have complete control, or else they break down. Act accordingly depending on which type of "take charge" this person seems to be. If it's the former type, be sure to let them know that you're there to be a team player. If it's the latter type, be sure to let them know you have ideas too, and don't let those ideas get stepped on.
2.) The One Who Never Shows Up
We've all been there...your group arranges a time to meet, and for one reason or another, there's always that one person who can never make it. Did they bother to let everyone know what times actually did work for them? No. Did they even read that group message? Probably not. Everyone deserves a little slack at first, but if this becomes a habit, it's time to let this person know that they need to start making a contribution, or a little tip to the professor might be in order.
3.) The One Who Goes With the Flow
This certainly isn't the worst person to encounter on the spectrum of group-mates, but it's important to make sure that this person is going with the flow of everyone else's ideas as much as they are contributing their own.
Of course, these are generalized profiles of different group-mates you may come across. There's no guarantee that you'll come across all of these in each group you have, or come across any of them at all. These are just a few examples of people I've come across in my own group project endeavors.
The main lesson here is, it doesn't matter what type of people you have to deal with in your group project, because you have to deal with them regardless. And unfortunately, these people will exist in their group-work-ways longgg after they're doing group work for a graded assignment.
It's up to YOU not to change their ways, but to figure out how to work with them and get it done.
Professors know that you're not all perfect group-project-angels. Professors don't picture all of you laughing nonchalantly as you type away on the multi-paged analysis of your collective research. They live in the real world too, and a good part of the reason they assign group projects are so you get practice working with all types of people. And, of course, they are testing you to see how you come together to get your project done.
So keep your head high, keep it together, and good luck!
Be sure to stay tuned for the next Sum-It-Up Sunday on the 15th!