Group work do’s and don’ts from the PLAs

La Trobe’s Peer Learning Advisors (PLAs) are high-achieving students who have been specially trained to help others with study and assessments. Go to the Library Learning Services LMS to find out more about the PLAs and access the Zoom drop-in service.

Got a group assignment coming up? Don’t stress! Our PLAs are here to share their insider info on making your group work journey as hassle-free as possible.

Do focus on the big picture

While group work can feel challenging at the time, figuring out how to navigate uni assignments with your peers is a wonderful way to develop valuable skills for the future.

“In nearly every job you will be working as part of a team, with each team member having their own responsibilities” says Ashley. “Group work gives you practice for working on a smaller part of a whole, whilst also building resilience for dealing with challenging people and situations.”

You’ll also become a better communicator, says Amy. “Even if you feel like you would get better grades by yourself, doing group work forces you to think carefully about your own ideas and explain them to other people. This is a type of personal development that simply cannot be obtained on your own.”

Don’t try to do it all

Are you a natural leader (with a tendency to do all the work yourself)? Don’t fall into this trap, warns Jess. “All students are capable of creating fantastic work – but some can feel intimidated, and may not contribute as much in fear that they’ll do something wrong.”

So, how can you avoid this?

“If you’re like me and usually take the lead in a group, here’s my advice,” says Jess. “Support your team by asking them how they’re going. Build camaraderie, value everyone’s contribution, and encourage them to speak on major decisions. It creates a better teamwork experience and often yields high results!”

Do establish a communication strategy

Remember that you and your group members are responsible for deciding when and how to communicate with each other – and communication is key to group assignments. “You need to make the time and space to work together,” says Pan.

Shannon explains how she kept in touch with three of her classmates for a large Company Law project. “We met at the same time each week via Facebook Messenger to discuss the assignment and work on it together using OneDrive to track each other’s changes. Making a consistent time to meet helped keep us accountable. We broke the assignment into parts and each worked on our allocated section – but because we could all see what the others were doing we could jump in to help as needed. Throughout the week we kept in contact via our Facebook chat. We actually became good friends because of this!”

Don’t be afraid to speak up

What if the worst happens and you find yourself in a team where others aren’t pulling their weight? Be firm with communication, says Olivia. “It’s not acceptable for one person to do the majority of the work while others aren’t contributing. Consult with your lecturer or tutor for advice, or meet up (virtually or in-person) to create a study plan for completing the assignment together.”

“I had a very unfair group work situation in my first year,” says Megan. “From this experience I learnt that if there are group problems, see your tutor as soon as you can! Tutors understand the difficulties of group work and can help to resolve issues early. Many tutors might ask you to complete and sign a group agreement – take this seriously as it is your chance to set and agree to ground rules.”

Do be kind

“Being kind and patient goes a long way,” says Amy. Sometimes, differences in schedules and priorities are unavoidable. “Always try to assume the best in others and be flexible with your ideas of when/how things should be done.”

And remember, the PLAs are here to support you with whatever you need – be it time management, help understanding an assignment question, or even strategies for overcoming a challenging interpersonal situation. Drop-in to see a PLA today.