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10 tips to make your project group excel

10 tips to make your project group excel

Being new at AAU and doing problem based project work for the first time, Eszter Schmidt’s first group work didn’t go as easy as one could have hoped. However, she learned a lot from it, and the following semester she found a great group. This time, they matched their expectations and worked together towards a common goal. Here, Eszter shares her experiences and 10 pieces of advice for a well-functioning group work.

Last modified: 13.10.2020

Eszter’s first group: An uphill learning experience

In Eszter’s first group, they were 6 people: 4 Danish students, one German and herself, a Hungarian. In other words: The majority was Danish, which wasn’t always an advantage:

“Sometimes they only spoke in Danish and I felt really left out.”

Looking back, she thinks that it could have helped making a group contract in which they could have agreed on the spoken language.

Eszter wouldn’t recommend being 6 people in a group:

“It is kind of hard to discuss every decision with 6 people. A group of 6 is too much maybe as it will take too long to agree on things. We also had age differences that maybe made things harder, even if it is just a few years.”

Not only the group work was difficult – preparing for the exam was trying as well for Eszter:

“I was away in Hungary and I flew back to prepare for exam with my group – even if it was an online exam and everyone just preferred to do it alone. Preparing for the exam was kind of chaotic for me at first. I was not really sure what to do. Also, I was not really on the same page as my other group members.”

She sums up her first semester group work:

“So, it was very hard to do good group work – even though it ended up well and we got a relatively good grade. First semesters are a really good learning experience.”

 

Eszter’s second group: Motivation, chemistry and a better result

Next semester, Eszter found a new group which consisted of 3 Danes and one international; herself.

“In my second semester I had better chemistry with a different group, and we were able to work at a different pace that fitted everyone. We worked very professionally and maybe handled things in a more mature way. We were maybe more motivated.”

“We decided from the beginning who does what, and we divided the group two by two so every member had help and would not feel lost and alone. I felt welcomed and involved.”

“We had schedules, everything was planned. We agreed to go to school every day before classes, or to stay after to spend time with the group and work. In this way, we were not just attending the classes but solving and discussing issues from those classes on the same day together. This helped me learn more.”

Eszter points out 3 things that made the result better:

  1. “The way we scheduled our time”
  2. “The ambition that drove us all to a common goal”
  3. “What we demanded of the group and ourselves”

 

The project experiences helped Eszter get her internship

One of the tasks Eszter had in her group work was to check on suppliers, and this actually turned out to be very applicable learning:

“Not long after this, I got an interview from my internship, and they asked me how good I am with data and sourcing. So, I was able to reply that I am doing the same thing in my project work, and it is not going to be a problem for me. On my first day in my internship, I got the task to look after 4 suppliers. So, the group work was very helpful for me and supported me in getting an internship.”

The way she worked during the project also has been helpful learning in relation to her internship:

“The consistent schedule we made in the group work helped me get into a routine that seems very natural now during my internship when I start even earlier.“

Eszter also sees similarities of the more human aspects between group work at AAU and her internship workplace:

“Feeling appreciated in the group work is very important. For me, it increased my self-awareness and my confidence. It is crucial also in group work to not feel bad when asking for help. Make sure you team up with supportive people, as they will make a big difference in the group work and group's dynamic. Your team members can influence your motivation. I also see this now in my work environment.”

She emphasises the importance of the things you learn through group work:

“Workplaces are searching for people who can work with people. Even if you are professionally perfect, they will look into your personal level and how you can interact and work with others.”

 

Eszter’s 10 pieces of advice to you

  1. Make a group contract.
  2. Make rules and guidelines very clear from the start.
  3. Discuss expectations, motivation, and ambition level. Are we meeting every day? Are we doing the work together? Are we going to sit together and solve it? Always be clear about what you want and what you expect.
  4. Get involved and make decisions together – not just a few voices.
  5. Decide on the language. You can even suggest that if you speak another language than English, you have to bring a cake or a beer next time to maintain a relaxed atmosphere.
  6. Join supportive people who appreciate you and your skills.
  7. Be a good teammate for others.
  8. If you have trips planned, have it in writing and send it to your supervisor to be informed.
  9. Don't forget to socialise with the rest of your fellow students.
  10. Negative experiences are also helpful if you learn from them.

 

 About Eszter Schmidt

 

Eszter SchmidtAbout Eszter Schmidt

Nationality: Hungarian

Study programme: Managing Engineering Operations and Supply Chain at AAU in Aalborg

Semester: 9th semester

Job: Global Supply Chain Intern at Terma Group in Lystrup

She loves about Denmark: The culture of empathy and tolerating others

She misses: The people's hospitality and spicy taste of food from Hungary

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