We’re All in This Together by Sarah Rose
Wicked problems are those without a definitive answer. They can be one of the trickiest problems since everyone’s situation is unique to them. To help guide you we collected stories from students in similar situations, their advice to you and how they overcame it.
This is a story about overcoming the issues students face during group projects in university.
The Wicked Problem
One of the problems I faced in pursuit of academic success was group projects. In secondary school, group projects were usually done with friends you trusted and worked well with. Group projects in university were my worst nightmare. They were often weighted heavily and groups were either assigned or put together by who you were sitting next to in a lecture hall. I had very high standards for myself and my marks were super important to me. I would get stressed enough over assignments I was completing myself. Group projects require working with and trusting strangers. I experienced projects where group members don’t answer messages, don’t contribute until the last minute, or don’t contribute at all. This led to many members stressing and working on the project last minute to finish the absent persons part. Group projects seemed like a worst case scenario in university and seeing it on the syllabus would make me anxious.
Finding a Solution
I was able to overcome my wicked problem. It required me to step out of my comfort zone and act as a leader in group situations (I am more of an introverted person naturally). Communication and organization is key when working with other people.
It is important for all group members to have a fast and easy way to communicate with each other. Group chats through messenger or a text group works better than email. It is important to get contact information in class when you meet your group members. Meeting in person with group members, fleshing out the project, and dividing up the work makes it clear to everyone what they need to do. Asking questions about the project and checking in with other group members is important. Collaboration can also happen by asking partners to edit each other’s sections, working on it in person or on video chat and using an accessible document everyone can contribute to. Working in Google Docs or Slides allows everyone to see, edit, comment and contribute.
Organization is so important when working with others. Scheduling time that works for everyone to meet or come together online is important. Talking things out can be easier than sending texts or emails. Meeting more than once can also be super beneficial. When possible I would try to meet with members to work on the project together. Even when we have our own sections, working together and talking it out can make the project come together better. Meeting 2-3 times is also beneficial. I would also make sure to meet a week before the project was due to go over the project and edit. This gives a due date from all group members to get it done early. If a group member doesn’t get their section done, it allows for other members to help them before its due. This system worked better and allowed for collaboration to happen, instead of a project awkwardly pieced together.
Working with other people, especially strangers can be hard. It is important to work outside your comfort zone and see group work as an opportunity to collaborate with like minded people, instead of something to dread. Stepping up as a leader can allow you to get the group together, set dates and times to meet and make sure the work is divided evenly. It is important to remember that you’re all human. Your group mates have other work, classes and stress that they are facing. Be understanding of other people and work together to find time that works for everyone. Everyone is trying their best! Group projects can be stressful and a lot of work but if you work ahead, communicate with your group members and try to truly collaborate it can be a great experience. You might learn from your partners and make something to be truly proud of.
Rose, S. (2021, September 29). We’re All in This Together. Liberated Learners. https://wicked.liberatedlearner.ca/collaborator/were-all-in-this-together/