This blog post was written by Brooke Wodnicki, our Campus Ambassador at The Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago
Group projects will either save you from a lengthy, time-consuming assignment or will break you by doubling the size of your already heavy workload. It all depends on your input and commitment as well as the input from your partners. Different people have different views of what quality work is, which can create disagreements between group members, especially when everyone’s grade depends on one another’s contribution.
Feeling like your efforts in getting work done exceeds those of others’ while each member is going to get full credit for a majority of your work can be a very touchy situation. No one wants to be a snitch let alone hurt anyone’s feelings, so take these suggested steps to notify your partner(s) without causing tension within the group.
Step 1: Specifically identify the problem.
Step 2: Consider the options when deciding how to address your group member or members. Don’t confront out of anger or frustration, think before you speak, and plan ahead what you want to say.
Step 3: Decide whether to talk to your group member(s) in person, on the phone, or via email and do so sooner rather than later. Avoid texting, which can often lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings.
Step 4: When confronting group member(s), avoid starting sentences with “you don’t do…” or “you” in general. This may make them feel as if they are being attacked.
Step 5: When discussing the problem you are having, explain how you feel, why you feel that way, and be clear. Also, unplanned interruptions or emergencies can happen, so try to be conscious of this and express an understanding that things do come up – sometimes underlying factors can be a cause to a partner’s lack of effort.
Step 6: Lastly, offer yourself to be available to help if your group member(s) need assistance with their portion of the assignment (unless you really aren’t available).
Try these initial steps to confront your partner(s) and adjust according to the situation. If you find yourself having done all you could have and now at a dead end, trying bringing up the situation to your instructor by using the following steps as your guide:
Step 1: Again, think before you speak and plan out what you want to say. Don’t approach your instructor with a sour attitude.
Step 2: I’ve found that email can be the best option when contacting your instructor. This prevents further conflict if a group member were to overhear as well as avoids putting the instructor on the spot.
Step 3: When discussing the problem you are having, address it to your instructor in a similar way as previously stated in Step 5 in the steps above.
Step 4: Don’t be a tattle tale, but instead ask the instructor for advice or any further suggestions that will help you in turning the situation around. This will also present itself as a positive outreach and the instructor will see that, which may even lead him/her to take matters in his/her own hands.