Upon hearing the term “group-work”, there is a certain feeling that almost all students get.” And it’s not a good one. Sighs are heard in the classroom. Stress begins to rise, and then, a mad dash begins – each person seeking to form or join a team with someone who’s a friend, or with whom they have already worked with in the past. The ultimate worst-case is when the professor declares that he or she will be choosing the teams, and who you will work with is out of your control.

As a senior Strategic Communications major at Temple University, I am very familiar with the dreaded group-work. Almost every class has at least one assignment per semester that must be done in a group, and some courses are constructed to be a single group assignment that takes up the entire semester. I am currently in a class like that. I had no control over who was chosen to be in my group. Right about now I am feeling apprehensive at best because I don’t know anything about the people in my group, or the kind of work they will produce. In the past I have always resigned myself to the fact that if I had a lazy group that didn’t care about the grade, then I would do the entire project alone.

I’ve just started my internship for The Gabriel Institute and am beginning to have a much better outlook about teaming.  Their TGI Teamability was actually created for the pupose of understanding and predicting how people will perform in teams. Now my mind has been broadened to realize that people have specialties. Not everyone is an organizer or a communicator. Not every person is good at doing research, or motivating the group to stay on track. Before, I always felt that because we were working for the same grade each person should contribute in the same way. But that’s not how it is, and that outlook can set you up for failure. The key to working together successfully is in finding out what each team member has a natural affinity for doing, and putting each person to the right task.

Unfortunately, Teamability, is new, so very few schools are using it to match people to teams and tasks. This is too bad, because it would make the life of a student so much easier. And let’s face it, students have enough to worry about without having to agonize over the possibility of a group failure. So I have devised a plan of action for every student who must join a team without the opportunity to choose (or even suggest) the other team members.

  • Get to know your team! Before jumping into a project with strangers you need to know more about them. Ask them questions about what they enjoy doing in school. If they have ever had an amazing teaming experience in the past, have them describe why it was so great.
  • Figure out what the end result of the project should be, and create a plan to make it happen. For example if you need research, writing and then a final presentation, ask the group which part they would feel most comfortable doing.
  • Make sure no one person feels overwhelmed. When an individual is overworked, they can feel bitter towards the rest of the team, which could jeopardize the final project and grade.  So encourage the group to agree on an atmosphere of honesty: if anyone feels they have too much on their plate, they promise to let the team know.
  • Finally, stay in communication. At least one team member should take the responsibility to send out a weekly email detailing what has been accomplished and what needs to be done. This will keep everyone on track and focused on the assignment.

Without the comprehensive TGI Teamability to tell you which team members are the best match for the team’s mission, your group experience in class may not always be ideal. These few steps I suggest are not perfect, but they will help. Most importantly, though, try to maintain a positive outlook. When a team truly acts as a cohesive unit the experience can be enjoyable and extremely rewarding.