16 votes

I have college coming up and one thing I have always dreaded was group projects/peer reviews.

I've made a lot of life changing decisions recently and am going to give school a try again. I'm actually going to take a legitimate shot this time. One thing that always held me back in the past were group projects and peer reviewing of the work. Could anyone give me some anecdotes on how I should tackle this anxiety? I started seeing a therapist *:but I was wondering if there would be something supplemental I could do also.

Thanks

*: I just want to say thanks again for all the feedback

9 comments

  1. Alfred
    Link
    As someone who graduated college fairly recently (2 years ago), I can only offer my advice on group projects since I'm not entirely sure where your stated anxiety comes from or how it manifests....

    As someone who graduated college fairly recently (2 years ago), I can only offer my advice on group projects since I'm not entirely sure where your stated anxiety comes from or how it manifests.

    Just set the goal for yourself to not be the weakest link in the group. In many groups there ends up being one person who does the majority of the work, and the rest kind of either at best do what they're told or at worst do nothing. Try to identify the person who cares the most about their grades at your first meeting, and offer to help in any way you can. You'll have a real role on the team, and if you're the type that really wants to succeed, you're more than capable about completing your part and maybe even helping others.

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that you wouldn't be in classes/in groups/peers with people who dramatically outclass you. That means, at least at the beginning, you're capable and you have to trust yourself.

    Good luck!

    12 votes
  2. [2]
    Artrax
    Link
    As long as the peer review doesn't directly impact your grade (which it shouldn't), solely view it as a way to either get information about what you could improve, or if you are giving the...

    As long as the peer review doesn't directly impact your grade (which it shouldn't), solely view it as a way to either get information about what you could improve, or if you are giving the feedback, where someone else could improve in your opinion.

    Don't justify yourself if you get feedback, in the end it is you who decides whether or not you will use the feedback to change something, so there's no reason "give feedback on the feedback". Take it or leave it. (maybe their Feedback was BS, so there would be no reason to change at all).

    And when giving feedback, try to be a bit overly picky, but say it in a way that doesn't offend the other person.
    The goal is not to crush the other one, but to give him the option to improve, even if it is just a little bit (that's why you can be a bit picky, because those things might be the things that he'll actually improve). If he don't think that your feedback makes sense, than that's fine. If he thinks that you are a dick for giving him detailed feedback, then f*** him, not being able to accept that no one's perfect will be a problem for him, not you, in the future.

    5 votes
    1. bbvnvlt
      Link Parent
      One of the things to look out for here, is to feedback the product and not the person. Not "I feel you didn't put effort into the layout". You don't know that and it can come across as an attack....

      And when giving feedback, try to be a bit overly picky, but say it in a way that doesn't offend the other person.

      One of the things to look out for here, is to feedback the product and not the person. Not "I feel you didn't put effort into the layout". You don't know that and it can come across as an attack. But something like "The layout lacks hierarchy (e.g. everything's the same size, there's no titles, the paragrahs are very long, etc.). This made it difficult for me to know where to start." Point out something objectively observable ("I see that", "I noticed that") and then say how you think that effects the quality/performance of the product or how it came across to you. Even though the second bit is subjective, that it had that effect on you is also fact.

      5 votes
  3. bbvnvlt
    Link
    Group work can be tough. Many times it works out fine, though. And remember that it's perfectly normal for it to suck or not work at first. Working in a team you didn't choose is a skill to learn...

    Group work can be tough. Many times it works out fine, though. And remember that it's perfectly normal for it to suck or not work at first. Working in a team you didn't choose is a skill to learn through trial and error like any other.

    I teach at a Dutch university of technology and have lots of experience coaching groups. In many courses learning to work effectively in a group is explicitly one of the learning goals. Groups can fail and succeed in so many different ways that I find it hard to give general advice. Except perhaps this: it's important to try and agree on ways of working. And then to be honest and open about it when those agreements are inevitably broken or there's something else that's bugging you. Often a group that needs serious help to not explode would have been fine if they had just said something to each other a week or two earlier.

    A good rule of thumb when discussing what's bugging you (or giving whatever type of personal feedback in any context) is to always define yourself and not the other. Don't say "you're not putting in the work". Say "I'm always here first, and you often come in half an hour late. That makes me feel like I'm doing all the work!" Maybe they have a job or a sick boyfriend they need to take care of in the morning and would like to start later but didn't want to ask because they're a little bit ashamed of it, for example. Saying they're not putting in the effort is likely to make them even less open and they'll get angry with you. Saying it the other way gives them a way to discuss how things could work better for them. Perhaps they're frustrated as well because they rush to be there on time, they're only a little late, and the rest of you already planned the entire project without them.

    Talk to each other. And if that doesn't work, or you find it difficult, ask/tell your teacher! It's what they're there for and they should have some experience dealing with these things.

    5 votes
  4. [5]
    reese
    (edited )
    Link
    Immersion therapy goes a long way. My experience has informed me that nobody else in your group will do jack shit, so none of their opinions or perceptions matter. When you see them, just picture...

    Immersion therapy goes a long way. My experience has informed me that nobody else in your group will do jack shit, so none of their opinions or perceptions matter. When you see them, just picture cats instead. Ones you have to corral. Mostly treat the group project as your personal project. Organize a weekly meeting at the cafe or somewhere where you tell your "team" what "we" accomplished that week, take minutes, fist bump everyone in congratulations and proceed to do the entire project yourself. "Wow, great job, team," you will say.

    Now eventually one of your "teammates" will suggest, "Hey, we should do it this way," implying that you will do it that way, or else there will be social sanctions in the form of scowls and grunts. On the 1% chance that your peer is contributing and making an honest effort, then you need to listen to and possibly adopt their idea, or alternatively compromise. Otherwise, ignore that thankless asshole and do whatever you want. College is your first opportunity to learn how to deal with the "royal we" folks. They don't go away after college.

    Most of the time you can literally ignore them. As in, they say something, and you just blankly stare at your laptop screen pretending not to hear them. If they persist, just bring up another subject. But, occasionally, you have to say no. That will probably be the most difficult thing for you. It was for me. You will need to learn to say no by forcing yourself to do it. The act will become exhilarating and empowering⁠⁠—smile and tell your teammate no. Don't even provide a reason. As a result, the others will recognize you as the natural leader because, whether you have anxiety or not, they know you will be ultimately responsible for their grade. They will also know you don't take shit.

    Meanwhile, the instructors are aware of what's going on. You don't need to explain it to them. If they ever ask if anyone else did anything, do not lie. You will honestly assess the others' work, but you will speak of even the worst people in a positive light. Your instructors will respect you for taking on the leadership role, doing the work, and being good-hearted. Ultimately your instructors are the mediators between you and the peer reviews. In my experience, instructors tend to completely ignore those reviews unless they are unnecessarily vitriolic, and then the person who wrote that review will probably be penalized for it without knowing.

    Oh, one more thing: pad your projects. Plan your project as if you will finish it one week ahead of time—because you won't. This way, in your last week with the project, you can spend it tying up loose ends rather than killing yourself over it. Also, for some reason most instructors think it's a great idea to have a test and make a final project due in the same week, so padding helps with that problem as well.

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      Man, sometimes I think I'm in a bizarro world reading group-project experiences. Personally, I've never had any issues with them. Everyone has pulled their weight -- if anything, people get...

      Man, sometimes I think I'm in a bizarro world reading group-project experiences. Personally, I've never had any issues with them. Everyone has pulled their weight -- if anything, people get uncomfortable when they feel like they're not doing anything. There's none of this weird politik-ing.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        reese
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I had one group project where one person took the leadership role instead of me during my BSc. I had another group project where a single other person carried their weight during my MSc (which I'm...

        I had one group project where one person took the leadership role instead of me during my BSc. I had another group project where a single other person carried their weight during my MSc (which I'm still working on), but that individual procrastinated to do work I depended on them to finish, because I regrettably established a planned division of labor, which then forced me to stay up all night before attending my full-time job the ensuing Monday. That lack of consideration from peers has been the staple of all my group projects. Especially on account of having changed majors in the course of the BSc, I have participated in so many of these projects that I cannot even ballpark a grand total for you.

        I may come across such that I am a domineering and imposing extrovert, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I am a reclusive soul who was forced into a leadership role again and again, because virtually none of my peers would volunteer to do anything. Literally, if I left it up to any of my peers, I would have failed multiple classes due to the weight of the project grade. My peers' excuse has always been, "Well, I'm taking these three or four other classes, so I'm too busy to really do anything on this project, but, regardless, I will insert myself in some group interactions and pretend to help." All that said, I am probably the one living in the bizarro world. I have watched peers repeatedly win the lottery with respect to group projects, whereas I have lost almost every single time.

        As far as OP is concerned, I should emphasize that my advice is conditional: if you don't win the lottery with respect to teammates, then you have to take control.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          bbvnvlt
          Link Parent
          I do not know you or the context of your projects. So this may be off the mark. But as someone who has coached a lot of student groups as a university teacher, ranging from 1st year BSc to...

          All that said, I am probably the one living in the bizarro world. I have watched peers repeatedly win the lottery with respect to group projects, whereas I have lost almost every single time.

          I do not know you or the context of your projects. So this may be off the mark. But as someone who has coached a lot of student groups as a university teacher, ranging from 1st year BSc to almost-graduated MSc, my experience is that students with such a history behave in a way that (unintentionally) makes bad group dynamics more likely.

          Group members who are genuinely well-intentioned, for example, but simply a bit flusterd or a bit slower/less proactive to decide how to tackle things can be put off by team members who hit the ground running.

          Group dynamics can go off the rails very quickly even when everyone is well-intentioned and capable, but clash in terms of personality, tolerance/desire for structure, or even something like preferring to work mornings or late afternoons. I have seen many a group struggle because such different preferences/expectations are never explicitly discussed and instead of saying what's bothering people or making them less motivated, just to start putting effort into other things, sometimes not even consciously.

          3 votes
          1. reese
            Link Parent
            I understand where you're coming from. Over the years, the irony has not been lost on me that I may well be the source of my poor group interactions. I've looked into the mirror time and time...

            I understand where you're coming from. Over the years, the irony has not been lost on me that I may well be the source of my poor group interactions. I've looked into the mirror time and time again, and I've tried different approaches. The best approach I've found is to purposefully enroll in classes that do not have group projects. And as much as I want to believe it's a 'me' problem, the thing is, I have never had the same experience at work. By and large, I have always been able to trust coworkers to do what they say they would, when they would. Not once have I needed to tell a coworker what to do. I don't know if it's because they can be fired if they don't do their job or what.

            I think if you knew me IRL, you would surmise that I'm comically unlucky when it comes to group projects.

            1 vote