Giang joined Paris School of Business in the 4th year and turned to International Business specialization. For her exchange, she went to London at the University of Westminster. She gives us some tips for getting the best out of group work.
The most painful experience of my student life in London was the group work, and you may find it very similar to you. The group assignment usually accounts for 50% of the total mark of the course, thus having high scores for it will help ensure the possibility to pass the course and reduce the pressure of the final exam.
The problem is most of the students, either at undergraduate or graduate level find it very difficult to work in a group, especially when the professor does not allow them to form the group themselves.The explanation usually is: “In real life, you can never be able to choose your team so you have to find a way to fit in and work together”. Eventually, working in a group is usually a nightmare for most of us as we may face with a variety of issues such as the conflict in ways of working, the difference in research and writing styles as well as the distinction in levels of knowledge and industriousness.
Normally in order to work well in a group, you have to understand the cultural behaviors of your teammates and find a way to cooperate with each other. However, it is not that easy in London because the city is too diversified. People come from different backgrounds and cultures and what we know about cultures is so generic and stereotypical that it sometimes leads you to improper action. After 6 months with a lot of efforts as well as failure and success, I have realized some tips that can help you survive (kidding :D), that can help you work well and enjoy the group work.
1. Planning and respect the tasks/ timing
When I was at work, I learned that having a clear plan always helps me to control my time efficiently and work more effectively as I always know what to do and be able to monitor the progress of the work. Therefore, when coming back to study, I also plan my study from the beginning of the semester. For each group project, I also tried to plan it well so that I was never in a rush while many of my classmates stayed up very late or even did not sleep the night before the deadline.
However, not everyone in your group always has a good study/ project plan; therefore, it would be great if you can ask everyone to make the plan together, agree on the timeline and respect it. By doing this together, you will be able to track every single individual’s work and progress and you will never miss any deadline or be being overloaded.
2. Talk to each other more
Talking to each other is the only way you can get to know each other better and as mentioned above, understanding the behaviors of a person will help us to work with them better.
As an introvert girl, I found it quite difficult to start the conversation with other so I didn’t talk much to my teammates even if I felt something wrong with our projects. In all the groups, we usually had the discussion from the beginning of the project, agreed on the contents, divided the parts and worked independently on our tasks. Only one person (usually the leader) will gather all parts and edit the report before sending to the professor.
However, the initial plan or idea may change when you start doing your research on the topic and you should communicate this to your group. Communication and sharing can help enhance the group’s knowledge that can trigger more interesting ideas for the assignment.
3. Don’t be afraid to kick out the bad performers
At school, many students may enjoy spending time on entertainment and party rather than studying and doing assignments. As a result, they do not invest their time in doing research and work on their parts properly. There are two solutions that are usually chosen by other students:
- Force them to complete their part, it’s their duty and I don’t care
- I will do all the parts because I want to get high scores
However, what we should do is to report the bad performers with the professors to find the solution. In case they do not try to change, we can choose to kick them out of the team. In other to do so, you should have the task lists, the meeting minute of each team meeting, emails and/or text messages, and all versions of the group work to prove that your team has tried your best to find the solution but they do not want to cooperate. Make sure that you have all the evidence to talk to the professor; then he/she will allow individual marking or exclude the bad performers from the marking of your group.
4. Get help from your professors/ tutors when necessary
In English program, you will normally have 2 sessions per week for 1 course, a lecture with the course leader and a seminar with a tutor. In the lectures, you will learn all the theory that is relevant to that course and in the seminar, you will be provided with guidance and support for your coursework. My pieces of advice are ‘never miss any seminar’ and ‘prepare and ask as many (relevant) questions as possible’. It would be better if you have the team meeting prior to the seminar to update the progress of each member and then show the tutor the results of the team. You will be amazed at the knowledge you gain and the final report you make. Moreover, you can also get their advice on the issues in your team as they have a lot of experience with students in their teaching life. Thanks to them, you will realize that studying is not as difficult as you think it is.
Giang Phung, M1 IB University of Westminster 2015/16, Promotion 2017