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Four steps to problem-solving in group assignments

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Published: 26 October 2020

Students working on a group project

As a student, problem-solving is something you’ll develop and add to your skillset. Writing assignments on your own can be challenging. But adding more people to the process creates a whole list of other things you have to think about.

Learning how to reach positive conclusions, not just for yourself but for everyone you’re working with, is something you’ll not only find helpful during your time at the University but well into the future.

There are four basic steps to solving any issue you come across:

  1. Identifying the problem
  2. Finding alternatives
  3. Choosing a way forward
  4. Implementing the solution

By following each of these steps you’ll find that you can turn a ‘problem’ into an opportunity for growth.

1) Identifying the problem

Without knowing what the issue is, there is no way for you to find solutions for it.

For example, if you’re doing a group project and your work isn’t coming out to the standard you were hoping you could assume it’s a problem with the group.

But if you look a bit deeper you might find that each person is approaching the tasks from a different angle.

Spend some time writing down all the possible problems you’re coming up against.

But make sure you back that up with evidence – avoid making assumptions.


2) Finding alternatives

There are plenty of methods for coming up with alternative ways of working. One very effective tool is mind mapping.

When you're doing a group project, sit down with your team and write out all the ways each of you are thinking about the assignment.

You can then draw lines to how they connect, match them to wider ideas and see if you can create a more structured argument.

Sometimes, simply writing down everything you know is the best place to start when you get stuck.


3) Choosing a way forward

The next step is to make a choice. If you’ve done the task above, you're likely to have several wider ideas to choose from.

This is where learning to compromise and work in a team comes in.

Try and remain objective, listen to the opinions of everyone in the group and be confident in putting your point across.

But set a time for discussion. Once that time runs out, the group will have to decide on a way forward.


4) Implementing the solution

The final step is really what all this has been leading to. You must now actually do the task.

As a group go back to your mindmap and see what smaller ideas were put under the larger topics you decided on in the last step.

Assign one of these to each person in the group.

Between you, agree on what you’ve got to do and how long you have to do it.

Then go away and work on your individual tasks.

Come back together at regular points to discuss, edit and improve but be sure to stick to the tasks you’ve given each other.

Group assignments can be an interesting, engaging and useful way of not only learning about a particular topic but finding out how to work together as well.

With multiple people involved the likelihood of issues coming up increases. But try thinking of every problem as an opportunity to improve.

We’d love to hear your stories of working in groups and how you overcame the issues you’ve come across.

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