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Group Projects in School (and life), Play Nice!

Have you ever been in class assinged to a group with or sitting next to a person who doesnt speak the same language you do or who doesnt speak english bery well? If you let it, things can get very frustrating. They dont have to be though. One has to learn that being understanding and practicing empathy is a part of life, and yes can be a part of group projects too. First of all, the fact that they a person doesnt speak the same language you do makes them no less intelligent than yourself. They just might not be able to articulate and express their ideas as well as they'd like to. But trust that they too have great ideas going on in that head of theirs. Communication is key! And communicating when there is a language barrier will require PATIENCE. You may need to explain things differenttly or think of new ways to get the work done. Hey, use google translate if you must. Technology can definitely provide many resources.

My professor had a very interesting thought that I find myself agreeing with more and more. He said "If you cant explain the concept to another person in simple terms then you dont understand the concept well enough".

Just something to think about! So on a side note, when youre in school and learning something difficult; think about how you could make a friend who doesnt take that class understand, or how to explain it to say maybe a 12 year old without getting too complicated and getting the message and basic understanding across.

In my art appreciaton class, I was recently assigned to a group to complete a project. There are six people in the group; three of which are asian, two latinos (including myself) and one middle easterner. The diversity in the classroom is awesome. I love it! On our initial meeting to discuss ideas as a group we had a hard time communicating, I'll admit that it was awkwardly silent for a while. The key to understanding each other is to make one another comfortable with voicing opinions and bouncing ideas off each other. When you dont quite understand a person and their behavior, always try to put yourself in their shoes. If you were in a foreign country completing your studies there, wouldnt YOU want friendly classmates to help you and include you in their plans for the project, or to just help you out when you're having a hard time? Nobody like to be excluded and left out. Lets all help each other :) and lets leave a good impression on every person we meet by being polite and helpful. Seriously, smiling and finding the silver lining and making others smile even when you are in a bad mood will eventually cause you to be happy.

Anyway, when participating in a group project I really prefer that everyone do their part. I've seen it happen many times where one or two group members get excluded because they werent given any significant work since the group thought they couldnt handle it or that they werent capable of it. (This very easily happens with the shy or foreign students, dont let it continue to happen on your watch after you notice it!) I really like for people to be comfortable and feel like their opinions and ideas are being heard.

If you happen to be the group leader or group organizer, make sure that you treat everyone in the group with respect and as equally capable. Its really rude and mean to give simple work or no work to the "weakest link" not to mention it can be damaging to their self-image or self-esteem. Nobody is really the weakest link because we all have our strengths and are capable of bringing something to the table. Practice patience, empathy and take initiative ladies!

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Comment by Diana Abou-Saleh on September 25, 2013 at 6:35am

Great topic! Groups projects can be tricky. In my major, learning how to collaborate and work in groups is essential. However, sometimes not everyone has the same ideas and opinions, and that's when one must compromise. It's all a learning experience nonetheless.  I've had plenty of good and bad experiences working in groups. The bad usually involved lack of communication between the members! So it's always important to say why you think the first meeting, and to establish clear rules and or say whether you'd like to work with that person or not.  

Comment by Jasmine Villa on September 23, 2013 at 10:09am

I really like what your professor said. Personally, I really dislike group work because I was always the one that had to do most of the work since most of my classmates did not care and wanted to do the minimum work. I like TEAM WORK, which is different from "group work." We start off as a group, but eventually turn into a team. Sadly, most of my positive experiences with group/team work is in Grad school and not as an undergrad.


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