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Surviving your child’s group project

It’s inevitable that your child will be involved in a group project at least once during his/her schooling. Unfortunately, it’s also inevitable that once a group project is assigned, not everyone will do their part, causing stress for all those involved. In the interest of arriving at a result that everyone can be proud of, here are some tips for parents and kids to prevent and solve the most common problems of group projects:

Kids crafts table

Make a Project Charter

Before students begin, it’s important that all members of the project team plan how they’ll work by setting some parameters, such as:

  • Project objective (such as, “To make an exciting, informative six-minute presentation about alternative energy sources”)
  • Meeting schedule (how often team members will get together to work on the project, when and where they’ll meet)
  • Contact details (phone numbers, addresses and email addresses for all team members)
  • Group dynamic (such as, everyone will sit in a circle and get a turn at having their opinion on each idea that’s offered)
  • Problem management strategy (what will happen if someone doesn’t attend a team meeting, do an assigned task, or meet a deadline)

Each team member should get a copy of the Project Charter. Explain to your child that he/she can and should be flexible, but that agreeing on some things on paper can save time later when the teams needs to focus on the work of the project.

List and Assign Tasks

Team members must determine what needs to be done. If the project is designing a poster, the tasks could be writing the words, developing a design concept, drawing or using a computer to create the poster artwork, getting the poster laminated, creating and writing the presentation of the poster in-class, etc.

Once everyone agrees on all the tasks that need to be accomplished, assign responsibilities. Discuss what tasks each person is interested in, and what skills/talents/resources they can bring to the project. Divide boring or unwanted tasks that no one wants to do, between several team members. If someone want to try something new, partner that person with someone else who has experience. This alows people to develop abilities in the group, while still creating a successful project.

Next, work backwards from the final deadline and assign deadlines to each team member for each task to be completed.

We also recommend choosing a leader for the project team. The leader will be in charge of supervising that everyone is completing their tasks by the deadlines. The leader should be someone who is liked and respected in the project group, and who has the maturity, authority and intelligence to lead. If no one else volunteers, encourage your child to take charge. He/she will gain important leadership skills that he/she can use all through life.

Reinforce the Social Aspects of the Project

Group projects can become stressful and dysfunctional when team members don’t have the manners to respect each other. Encourage all team members to:

  • Listen without interrupting when others express ideas
  • Encourage less forceful team members to express opinions
  • Keep a positive attitude about the project and the team
  • Support team members who are struggling by helping them
  • Not gossip about other team members
  • Be understanding and not take it personally if someone else’s idea is chosen over theirs

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