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Let’s face it — bach­e­lor’s degree group projects aren’t every col­lege stu­den­t’s cup of tea! Along with pub­lic speak­ing, group work can strike fear into your heart, and that’s why you’re read­ing this article. 

But we must also say that par­tic­i­pat­ing in group projects brings numer­ous ben­e­fits for col­lege stu­dents, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the acqui­si­tion of skills con­sid­ered cru­cial in the pro­fes­sion­al world. A Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges & Employ­ers (NACE) Job Out­look report showed that the abil­i­ty to work in a team is among the most sought-after skills employ­ers want. The rest includes com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, prob­lem-solv­ing skills, and lead­er­ship skills . Par­tic­i­pa­tion in group projects also devel­ops these skills. 

For col­lege stu­dents pur­su­ing their bach­e­lor’s degree, col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing through group projects also pro­vides them with oppor­tu­ni­ties for pos­i­tive group expe­ri­ences. In turn, these con­tribute to improved stu­dent learn­ing and reten­tion, social­iza­tion, and over­all col­lege success! 

Art of Group Projects College Degree Edition - fact

Strategies for Successful Collaboration in Group Projects

Every group is dif­fer­ent, and so are their assign­ments, dynam­ics and expec­ta­tions. Thus, there’s no one-size-fits-all solu­tion for suc­cess­ful group col­lab­o­ra­tion. How­ev­er, we guar­an­tee that the fol­low­ing are the most effec­tive group work strate­gies that col­lege stu­dents can adopt dur­ing aca­d­e­m­ic-relat­ed group projects. Plus, these strate­gies can also be used for non-aca­d­e­m­ic group activ­i­ties, such as team sports and fieldwork. 

Clearly Define the Roles and Responsibilities

By mak­ing clear def­i­n­i­tions of each mem­ber’s roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties in the group, every mem­ber can assume respon­si­bil­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty, under­stand their con­tri­bu­tions, and per­form accord­ing to expec­ta­tions. Assign roles to mem­bers based on their skills, strengths, and resources. Name the group leader, research lead, and cre­ative lead. 

Every mem­ber should also have a say in the roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties assigned to them and have the right to refuse their role or rec­om­mend them­selves for it. But once the roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties have been assigned and accept­ed, then the mem­bers should deliv­er. We sug­gest putting these in writ­ing, too, such as in a project char­ter or min­utes of meetings. 

Promote Responsibility and Accountability

You and your group mates must have a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty for the suc­cess of the group project and a sense of account­abil­i­ty for your actions relat­ed to it. Based on your project char­ter, every mem­ber must deliv­er on their assigned tasks with­in the time­frames agreed upon. 

Here are a few tips in this regard: 

  • Set clear and fair expectations. 
  • Make reg­u­lar check-ins to mon­i­tor the mem­bers’ progress in their assigned tasks and address any challenges. 
  • Let the mem­bers make deci­sions about their tasks, which will encour­age a sense of own­er­ship for the group project. 
  • Pro­mote col­lab­o­ra­tions among mem­bers by encour­ag­ing them to sup­port, assist and moti­vate one another.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a bedrock of group project suc­cess in bach­e­lor’s pro­grams! You and your group mates must com­mu­ni­cate well from start to fin­ish in your group project, or else noth­ing can get done. 

  • Select and set up your group’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or GroupMe.
  • Cre­ate spe­cif­ic chan­nels for dif­fer­ent major aspects of the group project, if nec­es­sary, to decrease clut­ter and increase focus. Exam­ples include project updates, gen­er­al infor­ma­tion, and infor­mal chats.
  • Agree on the group’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion norms, such as response time for urgent and non-urgent mes­sages, chan­nels to use, and man­ner of address­ing peo­ple and chal­lenges (i.e., respectful). 

Keep in mind that estab­lish­ing effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion among group mem­bers is always a work in progress. It’s best to seek to under­stand first instead of let­ting mat­ters get out of hand, whether in face-to-face or online interactions.

Encourage Open Communication

Suc­cess­ful group col­lab­o­ra­tions in col­lege also require open com­mu­ni­ca­tion between mem­bers, although it’s eas­i­er said than done for mere acquain­tances. Keep these tips in mind when encour­ag­ing open com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and it should be less of an issue. 

  • Lead by exam­ple. Even if you aren’t the group leader, you can demon­strate active lis­ten­ing, shar­ing your ideas and con­cerns, and accept­ing con­struc­tive feed­back. Your group mates will like­ly fol­low suit.
  • Build trust among mem­bers. Allow your­self and your group mates to be trans­par­ent and truth­ful about their issues regard­ing the group project instead of shut­ting them down ear­ly. Cre­ate safe spaces dur­ing in-per­son and online inter­ac­tions, too.
  • Encour­age mem­bers to give, acknowl­edge and act on con­struc­tive feed­back. But make it clear that per­son­al attacks will not be accepted.

While group projects have a short-term nature that isn’t con­ducive to build­ing deep con­nec­tions between you and your group mates, the lessons in open com­mu­ni­ca­tion you learned in each group will be valu­able in future group projects.

Establish Group Norms

Every group has its spe­cif­ic team dynam­ic because of the unique­ness of the indi­vid­u­als in it. As such, you and your group mates should ide­al­ly estab­lish group norms if you’re a new group or if it’s a new project. 

The group norms are the ground rules that mem­bers are expect­ed to fol­low in their inter­ac­tions with each oth­er, in their per­for­mance of their assigned roles, and in their res­o­lu­tion of con­flicts. The more these ground rules are under­stood, accept­ed and adopt­ed, the bet­ter your group project can be! 

A few examples: 

  • Be respect­ful of each oth­er’s views, opin­ions and ideas through active listening. 
  • Be mind­ful of the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty of infor­ma­tion shared among members. 
  • Be punc­tu­al and pre­pared for meet­ings and oth­er sched­uled activities. 
  • Be open to con­struc­tive feedback.

Create a Project Timeline

You and your group mates must cre­ate and fol­low a project time­line to ensure that you will meet the dead­lines for your group project. Your group should also eval­u­ate and update the mile­stones in your project time­line based on your progress and the chal­lenges ahead. 

Here are the basic steps when cre­at­ing a group project timeline: 

  • Define the pro­jec­t’s scope, includ­ing its objec­tives, mile­stones and deliv­er­ables, dead­lines and constraints. 
  • Break down the objec­tives into small­er tasks, deter­mine the order of task com­ple­tion, and esti­mate the dura­tion for each task. 
  • Assign the respon­si­bil­i­ty for the per­for­mance of tasks, iden­ti­fy the resources at their dis­pos­al, and agree on their targets. 

Your project time­line can be cre­at­ed using a project man­age­ment tool that will also be use­ful in mon­i­tor­ing progress, com­mu­ni­cat­ing updates, and address­ing issues. Col­lege stu­dents find that Trel­lo, Asana and Todoist are great project man­age­ment tools since these are easy to use yet pro­vide plen­ty of use­ful features.

Use Technology to Your Group’s Advantage

Of course, there’s noth­ing like human con­nec­tion when it comes to suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tions in col­lege group projects! How­ev­er, the use of tech­nol­o­gy facil­i­tates effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, too. You and your group mates should then be open to tech­nol­o­gy dur­ing the entire­ty of your group project. 

Aside from the apps men­tioned above, we rec­om­mend Google Work­space, GitHub and Notion. Every app has its spe­cif­ic uses, so you should dis­cuss them with your group mates.

Be Flexible and Adaptable

Things hap­pen that even the best plan­ning can­not fore­see or pre­vent! You and your group mates must then agree to roll with the punch­es but also to adapt your strate­gies due to chang­ing con­di­tions sur­round­ing your group project. There’s no need to change the pro­jec­t’s goals and time­line com­plete­ly, but being flex­i­ble in your strate­gies will lead to success.

Showcase Individual Contributions

While your pro­fes­sor will like­ly grade your group project as a whole, your con­tri­bu­tions should also be empha­sized! You want your group mates to be rec­og­nized for their con­tri­bu­tions, which will boost their morale and encour­age them to par­tic­i­pate more active­ly. Besides, your pro­fes­sor may ask for infor­ma­tion about each of your group mate’s per­for­mance and you want to be prepared. 

You can achieve it by: 

  • Keep­ing detailed logs of assigned tasks and their delivery 
  • Using a feed­back mechanism 
  • Acknowl­edg­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of group mem­bers in front of the group 

Just being gen­er­ous with your praise can go a long way toward moti­vat­ing your group mates to do their best, too.

Seek Help When Needed

But don’t be afraid to ask for assis­tance and sup­port when the chal­lenges com­ing your way dur­ing a group project become over­whelm­ing! Your pro­fes­sors and their teach­ing assis­tants will be ready to help.

Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Team Dynamics

But even with best prac­tices in adopt­ing these effec­tive strate­gies in nav­i­gat­ing group work in col­lege, it’s like­ly that there will be chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions with­in your group! The dif­fi­cult team dynam­ics can be attrib­uted to a sin­gle major cause — every sin­gle one of your group mates is a unique indi­vid­ual. Your dif­fer­ences in per­son­al­i­ty, per­spec­tives and per­son­al aspi­ra­tions will influ­ence your inter­ac­tions dur­ing group work — and it isn’t always on the pos­i­tive side. 

For­tu­nate­ly, you can adopt these dos and don’ts for deal­ing with con­flict and oth­er group-relat­ed issues.

  • Don’t be quick to judge. Instead, under­stand the root caus­es of dif­fi­cult behav­iors and approach the issue with empathy.
  • Do pro­vide con­struc­tive feed­back. Focus on the prob­lem­at­ic behav­ior and its impact on your team instead of engag­ing in per­son­al attacks.
  • Don’t shame the erring group mate in front of oth­ers! Instead, address the prob­lem­at­ic behav­ior privately.
  • Do focus on find­ing the best solu­tions for the issues at hand. Encour­aged mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate in the prob­lem-solv­ing discussions.
  • Don’t be the hero when you do not have the answers. Seek third-par­ty inter­ven­tion if need­ed. Ask your pro­fes­sor for help.

Deal­ing with con­flict and oth­er issues in group projects can be chal­leng­ing. You can, how­ev­er, over­come them by being empa­thet­ic, respect­ful and open to com­mu­ni­ca­tion — the hall­marks of being a good leader.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you start a group project?

  • Under­stand the assign­ment and its require­ments, includ­ing deliv­er­ables, dead­line and grad­ing criteria. 
  • Know your group mem­bers. Your pro­fes­sor may assign the group­ings, or you may be allowed to choose your members. 
  • Con­duct the ini­tial meet­ing. You must estab­lish the group’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels, define the mem­bers’ roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties, cre­ate a time­line, and estab­lish the ground rules. 
  • Put the agree­ment in writ­ing. You and your group mates can then estab­lish account­abil­i­ty for per­for­mance in the future.

How to do a group research project?

You must first select your group mem­bers, agree on your roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties, and cre­ate a project time­line. Basi­cal­ly, you’re mak­ing a research paper but with col­lab­o­ra­tion among your group members.

How do you group students for group projects?

The com­mon meth­ods in group­ing stu­dents are: 

  • Ran­dom­ly assign students.
  • Allow stu­dents to choose their members.
  • Assign stu­dents based on spe­cif­ic fac­tors, such as skills, abil­i­ties and strengths.
  • Rotate group assignments.

How do you lead a school group project?

Your lead­er­ship skills come into play when lead­ing a school group project, including: 

  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion
  • Orga­ni­za­tion
  • Team­work
  • Prob­lem-solv­ing
  • Deci­sion-mak­ing
  • Adapt­abil­i­ty and flexibility
  • Moti­va­tion
  • Lead­er­ship by example

What are the steps for making a group research project?

You will also fol­low the steps for start­ing a group project but with a research paper as your spe­cif­ic goal. Your ini­tial meet­ing must also include the fol­low­ing tasks besides the ones men­tioned above: 

  • Select your research top­ic and thesis.
  • Define the objec­tives and scope of the research project.
  • Cre­ate the outline.
  • Per­form the research phase, includ­ing col­lec­tion of data, lit­er­a­ture review, and surveys.
  • Orga­nize the col­lect­ed data.
  • Write the research paper, edit and proof­read, and review the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the infor­ma­tion presented.
  • Cre­ate the pre­sen­ta­tion mate­ri­als, if required.
  • Final­ize the research paper and sub­mit it accord­ing to instructions.
  • Reflect on the lessons learned dur­ing the group work.


Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Employ­ers (NACE)

Carnegie Mel­lon University