Tips for Successful Group School Projects
February 12th, 2013 posted by Myjellybean.com
When your child is assigned to a group project in school, it would be great if everyone did their part and things went smoothly. Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s not usually what happens! While this does occur during elementary school, as parents, we see this more and more during the junior high and high school years.
Since it’s inevitable that kids have to be involved in a group project at least once during their school career, they might as well learn how to manage one the right way. Follow these tips to deal with the most common problems of group projects, and to end up with a result that everyone in the group can be proud of.
Create a Project Charter Before they even start working on their project, suggest that they sit down with your teammates and create a plan for how they’ll work on the project. Things to include:
- The objective of the project (such as, “To create a fun, non-boring and informative five-minute presentation about alternative energy sources”)
- A schedule for meetings (how often they’ll get together to work on the project, plus when and where they’ll meet)
- Contact info for everyone in the group (phone numbers and email addresses)
- How they will make sure everyone in the group gets their opinions heard (for example, they could decide to sit in a circle when they work together, and give everyone a turn at giving their opinion on each idea that’s offered)
- A strategy for managing problems (clearly state what will happen if someone bails on a meeting, or doesn’t do their assigned tasks)
- Everyone in the group should get a copy of the Project Charter when it’s done. Explain to your child that they can – and should – still be flexible, but having these basics down on paper will save them time later when they should be focusing more on the project work, not the group dynamics.
List and Assign Tasks
Students will have to figure out what needs to be done on the project. For example, if the project is to design a poster, the tasks might be writing the text; coming up with a design concept; drawing or using a computer graphics program to create the poster; getting it laminated; deciding how it they will present the poster to the class and writing the speech to the class; etc.
Once there is an agreed-on list of tasks, assign each person in the group a responsibility, according to their abilities. Have a group discussion to find out what parts of the project each person is interested in, and what skills and talents they can bring to the project. If there are boring parts of the project that nobody wants to do, divide them up so not only one person is stuck with them. If somebody is interested in trying something, but doesn’t have much experience, pair them up with someone more skilled. The idea is to let people develop their abilities within the group, while still creating a project that can earn the team a good grade.
Now deadlines can be assigned to each group member, specific timeframes to get their tasks done by. Work backwards from the final deadline date for the project, to figure out when each part has to be completed. Remind your child to never skip this step, or they could end up stressing out at the last minute and sabatoging their hopes of doing well.
It’s usually a good idea to choose a project leader who can take charge of making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to. Choose someone who is well-liked in the group, and who has the authority and intelligence to be a leader. If noone else is volunteering, encourage your child to take charge his/herself. They will not only sleep better knowing that the project is going to get done right and on time, they will gain important leadership skills that can come in handy throughout their lifetime.
Don’t Neglect the Social Aspect Group projects can become difficult when team members don’t have the basic politeness to treat each other well. Encourage your child to do his/her part by:
- Listening without interrupting when their teammates express their ideas
- Encouraging quiet people on the team to express their opinions
- Staying positive and not saying things like “this project stinks” that will drag down your team
- Helping team members who are struggling
- Not gossiping about other members
- Not taking it personally when someone else’s idea is chosen over your child’s