High school is the time when you really begin working on group projects in school. For some, this is exciting; for others this is one of the biggest types of torment the school system offers. Regardless of your future career, learning to work in groups is an essential skill. Here are some tips to help you establish your voice in the small group setting.
Learn About Your Teammates
It’s easy to jump into the project head first, assuming that you know everything there is to know about your group. Or, at the very least, you may believe that you’ll learn all you need to know about your partners as you’re working on your school project. It’s essential to understand your other members’ personalities and how they like to work. God created each of you uniquely, with your own standards, gifts and abilities. You may be innovative and eccentric, while others in your group may be natural leaders or teachers – all these characteristics need to be recognized and honored.
Understanding the Intention
Everyone has a different perspective of what the assignment means. Before you can proceed with any type of conclusion, you need to ensure you’re all on the same page and can agree on what the intention of the project should be.
Look at Innovation
Many people are put off by innovation and creativity because of their own insecurities or because they don’t fully understand what is being presented. People don’t understand the value of ambition because they either don’t take the time to really listen to the idea, or the innovator presents the information in the wrong way. Innovation should be presented as opportunities, not ideas. Opportunities have gravitas while ideas do not!
The step of brainstorming is the most fun, but unfortunately, a lot of teams jump here too quickly. This is dangerous because you may uncover many exciting and good ideas, but if the right context and focus aren’t provided up front, and team members cannot get on the same page, then you’re wasting your time.
Brainstorming is a waste of time if you don’t have any knowledge, opinion or insight on the issue at hand. If other team members won’t do the research, then suggest a few group members do the research. Present the finding to the group and everyone can decide how to proceed from there.
Once you have some solid data to work with, you can utilize the group’s creativity to brainstorm some exciting, new ideas! People are going to have different views of what creativity looks like, or how they want to be creative in your project. Therefore, it’s easy to get off focus. Every idea is good and may actually lead to a greater concept, even if it’s opposite of the direction in which you see the project heading. So, here are a few helpful questions to pose to your group to keep everyone focused on the project at hand:
- What is our goal?
- Does everyone in the group share the same goal?
- How can we reach our goal?
- What are some obstacles that would prevent us from achieving our goal in this way?
- What results can we expect if we successfully reach our goal?
Pinpoint Your Idea
Here’s where the rubber meets the road on group projects. Whereas the previous step was creative, now logic and subtraction must be applied to focus on a result. Again, ideas are great, but they must be grounded in reality. Don’t make people feel bad for suggesting something that may not work or an idea of which the others don’t approve. Compile a list of ideas for the entire group to review. Then everyone can analyze which ideas have real potential. As a group, discuss why each remaining option may work to discern the best course of action.
In order to actually implement the idea successfully, you must ensure that the idea jibes with what your teacher is looking for. It’s easy to have a fun and innovative idea that doesn’t connect in any way to the project assigned. When in doubt, ask the teacher. If you’re off the mark, perhaps he or she can help get you headed back in the right direction.
Look for Interest
Talk to your friends, other classmates and family members about your idea. If others seem to be interested, want to help or are excited about the project at hand, then your idea is a keeper. If people don’t understand your approach or purpose, then you have time to reshape your idea before presenting it to your class and teacher for a grade
Implement Your Idea
How will you put your idea into practice? This is where you designate who is responsible for what. Now that you know what you’re doing, you need to discuss how to do it. Make a checklist and assign certain tasks to various individuals. If a natural leader hasn’t stepped into the position yet, then offer up what you would like to do and hopefully your lead will encourage others to follow.
Remind the team that you’re all in this together and working on the same goal. Of course, the ultimate goal is a good grade, but that may not be enough motivation for everyone. If some members aren’t interested in that type of reward, look at their personality again, and determine what type of reward may create incentive for them. Perhaps one member is super outgoing and she needs the incentive of being in front of a group of people as a way to motivate her to focus. Or, maybe one group member is really artistic and he can use this project as a way to develop his skills as well as gain recognition for his incredible talent.
Group projects can be frustrating, especially if some members don’t pull their own weight. But, with some leadership from you and some tried and true methods for keeping the group on task, you’ll have a better shot at that good grade. And, you just might have some fun along the way.