Group projects and team presentations — How to make it work

Group projectsCollege is a learning experience, right? You’ve already learned how to sleep with someone snoring across your dorm room, and how to make the most of your meal plan at the campus eateries. But what about how to make it work when it comes to a study group or team project? Odds are at least one professor is going to ask you to work within a group structure at some point during your college career. If you want to make group projects a success, read on for some tips.

No college student is an island

You may be wondering why you even need to learn to work in a group. Well, first of all, when you leave college most jobs will require you to work with others. A study group can help prepare you for that eventuality. Secondly, your chances of being a lone wolf in the “real” world are slimmer and slimmer. Even in our Internet-connected, virtual world, you are going to encounter others, even if it’s only on a cyber level.

So how can you make your study group or team project a success? According to the Cooperative Learning Series on The Study Guides and Strategy website, the most effective groups contain three to five people. More than that and it becomes difficult to keep everyone involved. If you are picking your group members (instead of the professors assigning people to teams), try to find people with different strengths and encourage everyone to participate. The entire group will learn more and gain more experience when everyone is included AND involved.

Are you a team player?

You may be worried about how well the others in your study group or team project may perform, but before you start worrying about others, you might want to turn that magnifying glass on yourself. One of the keys to a great group experience is by being a good team player.  Marty Brounstein wrote “Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Player” for about team building in the working world, but his tips can help you make it work on the college level, too. The top five things to remember are:

  1. Be Reliable — Consistency and follow-through are key. Look for both in your group members and yourself.
  2. Be Respectful — Always be courteous and considerate of your study group members.
  3. Be a Good Listener — Part of being a good team member is hearing what the rest of the group has to say.
  4. Be an Active Participant — Be engaged, attend all meetings and be prepared to speak up and volunteer. That is how to make it work!
  5. Be Cooperative — There is no “I” in team, right? Be prepared to work with your study group to get the work done. Good team players figure out how to work together, no matter what.

Together you can do it!

So it’s official, you are part of a team. Before you even begin down the path of your project, no matter what it is, your study group needs to agree on some ground rules. The University of Waterloo offers some suggestions through its Centre for Teaching Excellence site in an article, “Teamwork Skills: Being an Effective Group Member:”

  1. Agree on what needs to be done, and take responsibility for your task.
  2. Give constructive feedback, and be open to other ideas.
  3. Work together to solve problems, and know when to involve your professor.
  4. Set goals, and stick to them.
  5. Be honest about which roles within the group you are best suited for.

Above all, when working on a team project or within a study group, be committed and look beyond your own small piece of the work. No matter what the focus of your study group or team project, how you make it work is by caring about the overall results, not just your part of the effort.

6 replies
  1. Drew says:

    Group work in college is *********[CB]. I pay My tuition, and I work hard for MY good grades; I don’t want other students involved in my education in any manner whatsoever. I think assigning group projects is something lazy professors do in order to save themselves the time and effort of grading individual assignments.

    • Nowutellme says:

      You are 100 percent correct! I hate group projects as well. I have never been on a project where even with prodding you can get others motivated to perform.

    • Darren says:


      Unless you are going to start your own business and be the only employee, you will have to interact with other people. Group assignments are a great way to have people learn real world people skills. I as a professor also have a grade at the end of the course that each member of the group grades the individuals in their group for a participation grade. So say you are in a group of 5 and you and another member do the lion share of the work you would give the other 3 lower grades for participation and they would get a lower grade on their group activities.

  2. kristen cotton says:

    I like that you have taken the time to write an article about this idea. Most of what is suggested is reiterated information ( previously made known). I struggle to identify what my strengths really are and I have a feeling that others do to; therefore it is hard for us to be honest about it. I wonder if it can be required for professors to carefully consider what our strengths are and provide that feedback to us so that we can maintain them on focus on ways to improve other areas. What would you say to that idea.

  3. Terri says:

    As a non-traditional student (returning to complete degree after working forever) I can honestly say that group projects are a taste of how meetings and committees work (and don’t work) in the corporate and community worlds. No, they don’t always work efficiently. Yes, there are problems with equal levels of investment of time and energy in the project.

    Articles such as this one are valuable but, I think we are missing the mark on an educational level. Have any of us been taught how to establish and work as a team? There are shelves of books for corporate leaders trying to do the same thing. Why isn’t this a required quarter class?

  4. Courtney says:

    Group projects are the worst part about college for sure! But I think that they unfortunately teach you valuable lessons. I think a way to make it easier is to us online collaboration tools like that allow you to collaborate without having to actually figure out everyone’s schedules. You should check it out!


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