I Love Team Projects (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about the start of the new semester and some of the issues that arise with team projects.

When I need to be involved in a team’s well-being, that often means that it’s time for a life lesson that tastes bad going down but ultimately proves to be good medicine.

“Do you know if they have anything going on, in school or at home?”

This provokes empathy. I hope. Maybe there is something going on that, while it might be hard to relate to, will shed a new light on the situation.

If there’s no apparent explanation, I’ll ask a different question:

“What if they’re your group next time? Next project? Or even next semester?”

This compels the unhappy team member to start thinking.

About solutions instead of problems.

Could you have prepared for this somehow? Would you think of any different way to allocate responsibility, assignments?

And if so… why not start right now?

One time, a student told me “I wish I thought of that question last semester… because he WAS in my group last semester, too.

So, what if the difficult student, or another one like him or her, is assigned to your group in another project or class?

Side note: I don’t allow teams to fire members… peers don’t fire peers.

We have to find a way to make things work.

There are other lessons I’ve learned from my colleagues and from experience, including:

  • Have teams do an “asset inventory” early in the semester, so everybody has an idea of what they can offer and expect from their teammates
  • Make it clear that meetings are and will forever be difficult to schedule. Use online sharing tools and email to communicate
  • Set deadlines
  • Buddy up… don’t leave work to just one person. A group of four, if my math is correct, can form six pairs of buddies for six elements of a project.
  • Don’t worry about the other person’s grade, just worry about your own. In our environment, anyway, it’s not a zero-sum game
  • And don’t let anybody ruin your project or your grade or your learning. Or your fun.

Those last two don’t always go down easily either. Why, my students ask, should I work harder than her but she gets the same grade?

My answer: is your grade, your outcome important to you?

Of course it is.

Then focus on your outcome, not theirs.

I’ve seen this approach restore peace of mind to some.

For others, I’ve seen them recognize an opportunity to grow and to lead their team.

What has worked for you?

See you tomorrow!