Together with Professor Keith Dilbeck, an assistant professor of communication who among other things did research on human interactive processes, we put together a list of five tips to make group work easier.

1. Be clear about the tasks


Susan Lesker (23) studies Media and Communication and has to do group work regularly, and says: “a fair distribution of the tasks is important, it makes the process flow easily.” Dilbeck agrees with her. “It is important that everybody knows what tasks need to be done and what that task includes”, Dilbeck says. He continues: “Also make sure that you understand what the tasks of the others are. Creating an online space where you can keep track, like Google docs, works best”

2. Attainable goals

“Some people just want to save the world, but usually that is not realistic”, Dilbeck says. “So it is important that everybody in your group has a goal that is attainable. They don’t have to be the same goals, but you should be able to reach them.”

3. Communication

Communication is key when it comes to almost everything, but especially in group projects. Josephine Hall (22) is an IBA student and notes that communication is really important. “Let people know when something doesn’t go as planned, usually someone in the group can come up with a solution”, she says. Dilbeck thinks it is especially important to communicate well when a conflict comes up: “It is important to know why there is a conflict. You want to know if there is a conflict about how to get the work done or is there something else? You can figure that out by communicating and find a solution for the problem.”

4. Plan well

Economics and Econometrics Student Wendelien Bakelaar (21) says that planning is important. “It makes the group process run smoother when you plan well.” Dilbeck also thinks a good planning can help a lot. “A time schedule can really help you, just make sure that you don’t just have one big deadline, but set small ones. For example, say you have to finish the reading by Wednesday, have a summary ready by Thursday and finish the slides for a project by Friday”, he says.

5. Make sure everybody feels valued

A lot of groups struggle with people that don’t hand in their work on time. According to Dilbeck there is a way that could help you avoid this problem, he says: “If you want people to want to do their work there are some things you have to notice. First you have to make sure that people can share their ideas with the group. If so, you should look a bit further and see if people can challenge the opinion of others. Also take care of how you speak about the ‘out group member’, look at how you talk about that person, both in the presence and absence of this person. If you talk about this person in a certain way this can make the student feel excluded and not wanting to work for the group, try to avoid this.”