Group work can be a pain in the …..well, you know College Life

Hello everyone:

Have you ever been assigned group work in your academic life? Well, then you know it can be a great experience or …..not. Here are some tips to help you become the teammate from heaven versus the teammate from….well, you know where.

First, try to be evenly matched. That does not mean that you team up with your best friend in the class. I give my students a Work Ethics quiz that is not graded and they do not hand in. The quiz asks things such as, “What is your idea of turning something in ‘on time’?” If you get one person who says “If it’s due at 11:59, I turn it in at 11:58” and someone else who turns things in two days early, they will kill each other or, in the very least, drive each other mad!

The quiz also asks what grade they want to achieve on the assignment. Yes, some students are perfectly happy with a C, while others strive for nothing less than an A. It is a poor pairing to put an A with a C.

They are asked what their idea of “doing research” is. If they google everything and are happy with newspaper articles, they should not be on a team with someone who looks through scholarly journals.

Second, exchange contact information right at the start, figure out your time table for getting things done, and coordinate when you will have team meetings outside of class. You need to know the other team members’ most-used email and cellphone information. Trading never-used email addresses is pretty worthless. You also need to work backwards from the due date, so that you know when various aspects of the project must be complete. Also, even if your instructor lets you meet during class time, you will still need to meet in order to work out final details and polish the assignment.

Keep in mind that, the smaller your group, the easier it will be to meet. While you will both be doing more work if you are on a two-person team, a three-person team frequently someone is a free loader. A three-person team I was on once had a fellow whose total contribution to a 42-page paper was “nice job, guys” and “my name is Stephen with a “ph,” not a “‘v’.”  Yes, he was really helpful…..

Next, communicate with the instructor to let him or her know if you are having challenges with a teammate. I permit my teams to “fire” an unproductive member, after they discuss it with me thoroughly beforehand. Do NOT complain and try to fire someone who has missed one minor deadline. I have had individuals whose teammates did not respond to an email within minutes turn around and complain to me about their partner. It takes me about 24 hours to get back to you, so give the person some leeway for responses. Talk to the individuals on your team and explain how important it is to you to keep on track. Life happens, but don’t accept repeated excuses for why the work wasn’t done this week, either.

Finally, do not wait until the last minute. The instructor gave you weeks to work on the project for a reason. If you wait until midnight the night before it is due, don’t expect a good grade. If you are in my class, I will let you have a “free feedback” opportunity, provided you bring the assignment to me one week before it is due. I will glance over all parts of the assignment and give you feedback that you can take home and use to correct the document. Ask your professor if he or she is willing to do the same for you. While we don’t catch everything with a quick glance, we can tell you if you are on the right track!


Dr. Sheri


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.


  1. Nneamaka Mary Payne. Says: March 11, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Almost all student do not like or enjoy group project or research. But it is one of the basic skills we must acquire in order to be able to fit in work place. However one has to aim for the best and will to make up we anybody falls behind. It is expected from the professor that each group complete their work.
    Important lesson.

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