At some point in your education, you will likely be asked to work on a group project with your classmates or with a partner. You may be asked to take on a certain role or perform a specific task to complete the project.
Working on a team is different than working on your own. We have some suggestions to help you contribute and feel like part of the group.
The Pace is Too Fast
If your group members are talking quickly, it's okay to ask questions to clarify what they said:
- "Sorry, I didn't catch that."
- "Could you repeat that?"
- "Can you explain that?"
- "What do you mean by…?"
- "I didn't understand the part about…"
You can also ask questions to confirm that you understood:
- "Do you mean…?"
- "Are you saying…?"
- "So you're saying…"
- "So what you're saying is…"
If you think of something to say after the group has moved on to another topic, there are ways you can go back to an earlier topic:
- "Going back to _____, I thought of something to add…"
- "Can we revisit _____? I thought of another question/comment about that."
- "I thought of an idea about ____. Could we go back to that topic?"
Visit Surviving Group Projects for more materials to help you participate in group work. As the website explains, it's useful to make a plan with your group and decide on roles everyone will fill in the group.
Useful Phrases for Group Work
These phrases can help you:
Express doubt in a group
- "I'm not sure about that…"
- "I agree to some extent, but…"
Control a discussion
- "Let's start with…"
- "I think we agree that…"
- "Does anyone have any comments or questions?"
- "I think that covers everything."
Challenge a group member respectfully
- "But what about…?"
- "I'm not sure about that."
- "But isn't it really a question of…?"
- "I don't think I'd say that…"
Ask for opinions
- "What do you think?"
- "Do you have any comments on…?"
- "How do you feel about…?"
Make a suggestion
- "Why don't we…"
- "How about if we…"
- "It might be good to…"
- "I think we should…"
- "What if we…"
Check that people understand you
- "Do you know what I mean?"
- "Do you see what I mean?"
- "Does that make sense?"
Manage time in a group
- "We should move on."
- "We're running out of time."
- "I think we'd better continue."
10 Strategies for Effective Group Work
- Use your strengths. Think about what you can contribute to the group. Are you good at designing visual aids? Organizing notes and materials? Solving equations? Using technology and apps? Offer to do things you're good at as a way to meaningfully contribute to the group.
- Speak up early in the group. It might be easier for you to jump in to the group conversation at the beginning of the meeting. This is a good time to volunteer to complete tasks you're good at, ask questions about the assignment, or check on other members' progress.
- Practice jumping in. Some students say that the first time you jump in is the hardest, but it gets easier after that. The more you speak up and volunteer ideas, questions, and answers, the more comfortable you'll get. Here are some useful phrases to jump into a conversation or discussion.
- Bring specific questions to the group. Think of specific questions you can ask about the assignment, deadlines, group members' work, meeting times and locations, or resources for the project. Asking a specific question can help the group and it gives you a way to speak up and participate.
- Connect with an ally. If you're nervous about participating in the group, look for one group member you think might be especially supportive and try to befriend him or her. This person might encourage the group to slow down so you have more time to participate in the conversation, make sure you understand everything being discussed, or advocate for your ideas if you're shy about sharing them.
- Use small talk to connect. Group work is a good opportunity to meet other students and eventually make friends. Make small talk before your meetings start or after they finish. This can help you find an ally in the group, and could also help improve your social skills in general.
- Write ideas in Google docs. If it's easier for you to write your ideas than to talk about them, suggest that your group members use Google docs for brainstorming, writing, and editing so everyone's voices can be heard.
- Use communication tools and apps. While your group will probably do some discussions in person, also try to communicate as much as you can in online apps your group might use, such as GroupMe, Google Chat, or WhatsApp. This is another way for you to actively participate.
- Clarify when you don't understand. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If there is something unclear about the assignment or your task, or if your group members use terms you don't know, ask some questions so you understand.
- Be persistent and don't give up. Some groups work together better than others. If you have a negative experience in one group, it doesn't mean all of your group projects will be bad. Keep trying, and remember that new projects with new personalities will give you a new opportunity to connect, participate, and learn.
Peters, B. D. (2018). “Step back and level the playing field”: Exploring power differentials and cultural humility as experienced by undergraduate students in cross-national group work (Order No. 10837432). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ CIC Institutions; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (2130135536).