Who hates group assignments? Me! (How I survived group assignments for an online journalism class) #YLPtalk
I worked in teams throughout my previous journalism courses. In the hopes of building effective journalism practices, I was assigned to a new group in the third week of every class. The teams consisted of five people whose purpose was to gain experience collaborating with fellow journalists and to create media. Our instructors formed groups which ultimately helped build our skills in communication and teamwork.
As we developed media, shared, and collaborated ideas for our assignments, we found that our team was diverse in personality and work ethic. We went through many obstacles dealing with communication, authoritarian leadership qualities, and in some cases a complete disregard for other team members.
My top priority was to ensure the accurate completion and submission of our assignments on time. There were instances of miscommunication as our team’s primary mode of communicating was through Technology, The Internet, and the student portal. Depending on the general use of the portal to communicate made collaborating stressful, so our team decided to exchange phone numbers and availability to bridge the gap and broaden our communication. .Some members’ lack of communication, improved with the exchange of phone numbers, however, there were occasions where the exchanges, dialog, and agreements, over the phone, differed than what team members would portray in the dialog within the portal.
In one group, our obstacles were a result of ineffective communication but later evolved into issues of control. Communication got better for some people as we began to express our concerns through daily dialog through the portal. Passive aggressiveness, controlling tendencies, and other personality traits slowed down our team’s production.
While slowly achieving positive results, some members tried to take charge and assume an authoritarian leadership role; this began to divide the team. Members would contribute consistently to the required assignments, and the authoritarian leader felt some team member’s standards weren’t high enough. As a result, standards were set higher than the assignment’s requirements. High standards and control aren’t always qualities that work in diverse teams. It can hinder individual creativeness, contribution, and is inconsiderate of the diversity in different learning styles.
Starting off our first team’s assignment, we were required to submit a combined paper totaling 500 words. Four of the team members thought it would be ideal for each member to contribute at least 100 words apiece, submit through the portal, and the fifth person would be dedicated to the editorial, formatting, and responsible for the submission of the assignment.
The authoritarian leader decided that the people who did not submit beyond 200 words would have their name emitted from the assignment submission. The leadership style did not work for this team. Many members expressed their concern through the portal and eventually directly to the professor. The professor interceded after trying to settle things within the group; he ultimately agreed, understood our concerns, and switched the groups.
From this experience, I’ve learned that a leader should put their personal preferences aside and focus on the team as a whole. If the leader is a perfectionist, it is acceptable to some extent. The leader cannot obtain an authoritarian position and force the other members to contribute beyond the requirements or change the assignment requirements to fit their higher standards.
The leader of the group was authoritarian when our group called for a democratic leader. We are all students, and I don’t think our group called for that particular leadership style. Working in teams online was definitely a learning experience. I think that the team was effective because I learned many lessons from the good and bad experiences with working in the teams. The goal was to generate media and get a first-hand look into journalism, understanding the principles, and understanding the differences between journalists and everyday bloggers. This was successful as I gained more appreciation for journalists generally. After switching to a couple of members, we were able to effectively communicate and produce quality work.
Communication was imperative for the successful completion of our work. As everything is online via computers, the Internet and other modes of Technology, it was essential to find a way past the obstacles. The use of technology primarily to communicate made it difficult because some ideas were misinterpreted. As we learned in this current course, people who communicate primarily through technology miss important cues (nonverbal cues, etc.). It is hard to determine the tone of many messages through the portal at times, but we were able to apply the lessons we’ve learned through our journey and in the end progress.
As a team, we set goals to efficiently, collaborated, and ultimately completed work on time, efficiently. Though it was a rough journey, it was successful. I think many members did a great job at expressing their concerns early on and we were swift in refocusing our attention and making improvements. Many team members prioritize their goals accordingly, remained consistent, and communicated via the portal. We met deadlines, completed our required assignments, ultimately fulfilled our roles (editor, formatting,) laid ground rules (delegation, separation of assignment stuff) and norms. The various experiences helped out team determine our organization skills, prioritize, determine our strengths weaknesses, etc. This helped to determine the degree to which we could become successful. Accountability was reflected in our effectiveness in contributions and completion of work.