Many hands make light work: how to survive group assignments


Some students love group work – but chances are those students aren’t the ones doing most of the work! Read on for how to deal with the common group work ‘types’ and find out which one you are.




Category One: the genuine hard worker

Profile: quiet, unassuming, and the first to put their hand up when the group leader asks ‘So who’s doing this bit?’ As a result, this worker bee will often end up doing most of the assignment themselves.
The pros: The genuine hard worker will learn the most out of everyone and they also have the most control over the quality of the work. If you’ve done the majority of the assignment, you know you’ve done your best!
The cons: The lazybones of the group will take advantage of the genuine hard worker, as might the others. Don’t be a martyr – make sure everyone does their share!

Category Two: the lazybones

Profile: chilled out, easy to get along with and full of jokes, but mysteriously absent when it comes to splitting up the workload.
The pros: The lazybones will help relax the group and keep things light and fun, often coming up with little ideas that are actually really clever or funny.
The cons: The lazybones will be all too quick to offload work onto the control freak or the genuine hard worker – if you’re a lazybones, make sure you at least pitch in a little bit! Believe it or not, teachers can tell when group work isn’t true group work. It’s not worth losing marks for.

Category Three: the control freak

Profile: The control freak will be certain their ideas are the best, and can often be found overriding the quieter group members and pushing their own ideas forward constantly.
The pros: The control freak will work HARD – they’re so certain their approach is the best one that they’ll often be happy to take most of the workload off your hands.
The cons: The control freak will stress out the group and can often be bossy and cruel, especially when giving other group members feedback on their work. If a control freak is stressing out other group members, try throwing a casual ‘Guys, it’s only an assignment!’ line out there to pull everyone into a calmer mindset.

Category Four: the natural leader

Profile: whether or not chosen as the leader, the natural leader will rise to the top and organise the group’s roles.
The pros: The natural leader will keep the conversation focused and the group organised, calm down the control freak and make sure the lazybones does their share.
The cons: The natural leader can get bossy – and if your group already had a voted leader, the two leaders can butt heads. Worse, if you have two natural leader types vying for control, things can get awkward! The best type of natural leader is one who knows when to be a follower, so if this is your type, just relax – you don’t have to lead all the time.

Category Five: the silent sister

Profile: the silent sister will agree with everything everyone else says, never offer any opinions of her own, and pretty much just melt into the background of the group.
The pros: The silent sister will never make waves or break the rules. You can be confident that they’ll do exactly the work they’re supposed to do – and nothing else.
The cons: The silent sister can be unimaginative, and in creative work this can feel like a bit of a drag. You might have to carry the silent sister in the ideas stage, but make sure they pull their weight when it comes to completing the work. A lack of creativity shouldn’t mean a lack of work!



How to manage your group

Don’t let the silent sister get ignored. If they put forward an idea, make sure it’s recognised to encourage them to keep contributing.
If two natural leaders are butting heads and fighting for control, suggest splitting the project into two (e.g. ‘Research’ and ‘Collation’) and give each leader a section.
If the lazybones hasn’t put their hand up for anything yet, drop a hint to the control freak that this has happened. They’re bound to deal with it in their own bossy way!
If the control freak is constantly undermining the natural leader, drop a hint to the lazybones to make a joke and calm everyone down. Control freaks will often back off if they think they’re coming off as uncool.
Make sure the genuine hard worker is happy with his or her workload, and encourage them to contribute with ideas as well – the genuine hard worker can often be a chattier version of a silent sister so they might end up feeling downtrodden.
Finally, make sure the natural leader takes enough work for themselves – they’re often so happy managing and delegating that when it comes to actually completing the assignment, they’ve given all the work to the rest of you!
Try to work out which member of the group you are. You might even be 20% lazybones and 80% silent sister – often people are a mix. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses you’ll start seeing them in others.
But most importantly, no matter whether your group gets on famously or starts to hate each other – it is really just a school assignment! Just focus on getting it done on time and well enough – and if you’re still mates at the end, you’ve done really well.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.