Group Projects: What have I gotten myself into?

I have been very quiet on this recently. I apologise. Capstone fever has taken over. For those of you who do not know what Capstone is it is the thesis requirement of my Masters except instead of a thesis in the traditional sense it is a group project. The project that I am working on is looking at providing bibliotherapy to teenagers in Irish Public Libraries. There is nothing like sitting in a room full of teenagers looking at you as if you have two heads to make you feel old but I’m persevering all the same.

I am lucky in that I have some incredibly dedicated and talented people working with me however, we are still having to deal with all the trials and tribulations that come with group work. For example scheduling is a big issue as some of our group members have jobs outside of our project. We are currently trying to organise our interviews for our second round of data collection a process which is equivalent to a human version of Jenga. Each of us has to be present at at least one interview and one focus group however work commitments means that our tower of plans is teetering precariously on a foundation of ifs and maybes. If just one person is unable to swap their shift or take a holiday there is a strong likelihood that it will come crashing down around us.

Another issue we are having is that we are all too nice. No one wants to be the person to turn around and criticise someone else’s work, especially because we know how much effort is going into it. Luckily we have come up with a solution to this particular problem… peer review. It’s not just the forte of academic journals it’s also the nicest way that a person can criticize a team mate without coming across as a know it all.  Our theory is that by using peer review we can point out corrections in a constructive manner thus avoiding the pitfalls that comes with an group of six people pointing out everything that is wrong with the work you have just given up your weekend to complete.  We have divided our group into various combinations of three people. Every time one person has completed a draft of their work they pass it on to the other two people in their mini-group. These other two people then make any corrections and/ or suggestions they feel necessary and pass it back to the person for them to make the changes. This feels like a superior model to the one we had up until now where one person did the foundation and then everyone else worked on it together in a Google Doc until we were all happy with the result, a model which was both time wasting and leading to resentments within the group. Group work is notoriously challenging so hopefully our new system will help us to overcome some of the issues we have encountered up to this point. It’s still in its early stages though so I will keep you posted on how it works.