Have you all been following the Apprentice this year? Is it just me or are the mix of people more bizarre than usual? By that I mean, they seem to genuinely find it hard to work together. Although this was clearly intended for the purpose of entertainment, I can’t say that anyone would approve it as a model to showcase cohesive team work.
Group work for Biological Sciences students tend to take the form of presentations and short seminar discussions. This is the case until second year when ‘BS2000’ comes along. This is an entire module assessed purely through the submission of a group-based research proposal. This means that you are tasked with reading the literature, organising a research question, and typing up the proposal with four other (hopefully eager) people on a single topic.
Although it probably sounds daunting, I genuinely enjoyed myself. And as they will eventually tell you, being placed in a teamwork environment is crucial practice for the future.
Whether you follow an academic or medical path, or something completely different, you will have to work with other people you don’t know on often complicated projects. The ability to understand what you’re good at (your strengths) and what you can contribute to a team is highly valued. For example, if your strength isn’t with proofreading, then you will probably be miserable if you take on that task – so maybe you can offer your time working on methods instead? Conversely, not having anything similar on the course means that you can challenge yourself and try something new – maybe you can put yourself forward as a presenter to get some early practice before the real thing?
The thing I took away most from this module, as well as group projects generally, is that there is nothing more important than setting expectations at the start. Not only do you start to work towards the goals you set out, but in the teams I’ve worked on, I found that people tended to bounce off each other. For example, I would always post about my progress during drafting, and posing the questions I was confused about and found that shortly afterwards, people felt encouraged to do the same.
Group work isn’t for everyone, sure, but it is everywhere so definitely give it a once-over before dreading it completely.
I will leave you with a ‘Build a Tower, Build a Team’, a TED talk which may be of interest and a reminder that unlike the Apprentice, group work tends not to be a competition so let’s all help each other out!