Common Challenges

  • Scheduling problems

    Occasionally, group members are so busy that it is impossible to find a time when every member can attend all of the meetings. Here are some ways to deal with missed meetings.

    • At the beginning set clear, mutually agreeable guidelines for attendance.
    • Meet at times when you know that you will all be available, like lunch, or directly before or after class.
    • Remember that there are alternatives to meeting face-to-face; consider conference calls, email or online chats.
    • Always take notes on the meeting. This ensures that absent group members can easily be brought up to speed on what they missed.
  • Personality clashes

    Some tension within a group is normal. Diplomacy, co-operation and tolerance need to be practiced by all group members.

    • Ground rules need to be set at the beginning for appropriate interaction.
    • Recognize that negotiation and accommodation are part of the process.
    • Make a contract that clearly outlines the expectations of each group member. See our handout for more information.
    • Encourage positive behaviour.
  • Lack of focus

    Remember that your group may have very few opportunities to meet which means that time is precious. You don't want to waste even a single minute.

    • Run efficient meetings from start to finish. Have a plan and an agenda for each meeting.
    • Define clear roles for each group member during meetings. Ex. Facilitator, Arbitrator, Note-taker.
    • Insist on setting clear objectives like arriving prepared, on time, and keeping to a schedule.
    • Break large tasks into smaller chunks. Make sure each group member knows what is expected of them.

  • A group member is doing nothing

    Groups work best when everyone participates and carries their share of the load; however, it’s not unusual to have one or more members who are occasionally or chronically unproductive.

    • Find out why the member is not contributing. Always speak with the member first, it is important to be 100% clear on why the group member is not contributing before proceeding. Try to first problem solve within the group before bringing in external people.
    • Let your instructor know what is happening.

  • Bossy group member

    Some people simply prefer to monopolize conversations.

    • Remind the group member of the guidelines that you set out in your group contract. If you don't have a group contract, now would be the perfect time to write one.
    • Chat with the domineering person either as a group or privately. Say something like: "I know you have good ideas and you really want to share them, but we need to get everyone involved in the discussion. Please help me get other people talking and sharing in the group by letting at least five people share before you do. That should encourage others to share."
    • Set time limits for people to speak or limit number of times each person can speak.

  • Where do we go for help

    Go to your instructor:

    • For understanding the objectives and requirements of the project.
    • If you need feedback or direction.
    • For direction or advice on the use of resources.
    • If you are having difficulty with group dynamics and are not able to resolve them independently.

    Go to the Learning Commons:

    • Attend a Study Skills Drop-in or make an appointment to see a Learning Skills Advisor for more information.


How can we work together as a team to get the most out of our group work project?

Take time at the beginning of your project to discuss strengths of individual group members. This will allow the group to match tasks appropriately. Develop a plan by breaking the project into tasks - consider using our Group Work Template or Task Breakdown tools. Determine how you will communicate, exchanging contact information with each other. Assess how well your group is working by taking the "Are We A Team" quiz. 

How can we collaborate?
Your group will need to decide if you want to meet in-person, or collaborate online. If you meet, set clear objectives for meetings. Decide what each person needs to do before the meeting and what tasks will be worked on together during the meeting. Online collaboration tools, such as Google Docs and Dropbox, allow for many people to work and comment on documents simultaneously. You can also collaborate using your college Office365 account - sign in to your email or learn more from IT's support page.

Our group project includes a research paper and/or a presentation. Where can we get more information? 

Try our toolkits for Research Paper and Presentations. Questions about APA referencing? Check out APA@Conestoga

How can we work through conflict?
Taking time to address the issue can save time and stress in the long run. To work through conflict, consider discussing some of these questions as a team:
  • What are we supposed to accomplish as a team?

  • What are our individual roles and responsibilities in accomplishing that goal?

  • Who and when do each of us need to get information from?

  • If we get into trouble, who can we ask for help?

  • How will we arrive at decisions?

  • What strengths do each of us bring in accomplishing our goals?

  • How are we going to make ourselves more accessible to one another?

  • What are we doing that is blocking the resolution of this problem?

  • How can we express differences without blaming others?

  • Which behaviors are unproductive? How can we help individuals take ownership of their unproductive behavior? Don't excuse a team member when he or she behaves badly.

You can also choose to work through the "Are we a team checklist" as a means to discuss what's working well (and what is not) in your group.