A Student's Survival Guide to Managing Group Projects by Laura Lawfer

Laura LawferI have always dreaded group projects because it has always felt like I was the only member of my group committed to doing work. When I came to graduate school at UNCG, I came with that same dislike—and perhaps fear—of collaborative work. During the first week of classes, I found that in all three of my graduate courses, I would be doing some form of a group project. I guess it comes with the territory in public history! I had no idea how I would make it through the semester, dreading group meetings and the amount of work I would have to do.

Graduate school has been different, at least in my experience. One group project in particular sticks out in my mind. In one of my electives, History 520- Southern History: Selected Topics, my group and I are creating a podcast walking tour about Greensboro's role in the Civil War. I've never worked with such a great group. Certainly we don't always agree 100%—we had a good tussle about the kinds of sound effects to use on the tour—but we work at a higher and more efficient level than those groups in my undergraduate courses. I feel like I'm learning a lot more about working with groups than I ever did as an undergraduate.

As a group of five, we first delegated tasks to one another. We decided exactly what needed to be done in each section of our walking tour and split up the research. For a while, we met almost every week to share progress and to make sure none of us was having problems with our research. Finally, we brought our work together to create the tour script, which several of us edited together. Now, we are putting the finishing details on the entire project. A lot of what we did involved working separately, communicating on a regular basis, and setting specific deadlines for the entire group to meet. Meeting as a group to go over our progress and tackle problems was what made this project work, though. Working together to decide on the focus and scope of the project really made it come together and be more substantive.

One thing that I definitely learned from this group project was that sometimes it's necessary to relinquish control over an assignment. By delegating tasks and keeping in touch, my group worked together to create what will—I trust—be a successful project when completed. Because of my positive experience with the walking tour, I don't feel nearly as wary of group projects anymore.