Working in Groups

Using Group Time Profitably

After making initial decisions about choice of topic and members' duties, a group will work best together if each member comes to meetings with at least some of his or her individual work and thinking already accomplished. Groups can then move directly to the more advanced writing process stages of organizing and negotiating between ideas or even of piecing together drafts. Various strategies help make group time as productive as possible:

Be Prepared

Come to the meeting with at least some of your individual work and thinking already accomplished. If you were assigned to write a portion of the draft, for example, have it done for the meeting and bring copies. If this is a planning meeting, think about the topic before hand and jot down some notes about what you think should be done.

Set an Agenda

Set aside time at the beginning of each meeting to run through (or create) the agenda and state aloud the goals for this meeting (i.e. what you want to accomplish). Save time at the end of each meeting to recap the events of the session, discuss plans for individual work, and set the agenda for the next meeting.

Appoint a Secretary

Group meetings can move very quickly with so many people talking. For each meeting appoint a scribe (a different one each time) to take down notes on the discussion and keep track of plans and decisions made. The scribe should provide each member with a copy of a particular meeting so everyone has the same sense of what happened and what was decided.

Negotiate

All committees need time for unfocused discussions that attempt to move the group toward consensus. More than a few group meetings may need to be devoted to what seems like unfocused talk. Allowing this to happen will make later sessions more productive since you've already explored many ideas about the topic; as a result, getting down to work will be easier.

Disagree

Feel free to disagree. The best ideas come about when someone has the guts to question an idea or plan that seems to make sense to everyone else. Critiquing each other's work or ideas is essential to working together to create the best product. Don't hold to your individual ideas so strongly, however, that the group doesn't make any progress. Know when to compromise and when not to.

Be Strict about Deadlines

You expect all your other group members to complete the work they've committed themselves to; apply the same standard to yourself. Remember that you have a commitment to these people and failure to meet it will affect not only your grade but theirs as well.

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Introduction