So as I have mentioned here on this blog before, I am back in school, starting a part-time Masters while also running a business and being a full-time Mom (Whatever that means, since I don't know too many part-time Moms – even if your child is somewhere else, you are still the Mom right? Little Swede does go to daycare FWIW)
Anyways, studying in Sweden means Groupwork, and as much as part of the reason I chose my program was because of its advertised lack of groupwork (and I actually wasn't the only one to do so), there was still a little groupwork to get us started.
I find groupwork to be a struggle. But it is true that Swedish groupwork is a pretty good testing ground for working in Swedish groups in 'the real world', it doesn't make it any less frustrating.
So here are my tips for survival – and this time I am not going to apologize for my opinion, because seriously, it is my opinion and that is what it is worth. Please note that this list is made from experiences in courses that I have taken in the past and does not reflect on my current groupwork experience! (Although they are oblivious to this blog anyway).
- Be careful about grabbing the reins: A great deal of time in your group will be spent hemming and hawing because no one wants to really take the leading role. There will be a lot of 'So, what shall we do?' 'I don't know, what do you think?' 'I don't know, how about you.' This does not mean that nobody in the group has an opinion. It just means they don't want to lead or be first. As someone who in the working world has to lead groups, I find this very difficult to deal with. Mostly because it means a project that should take 1 hour will not take less than 3. I often weigh the options, if I take the lead it means I usually means I will do 70% of the work, but in about 30% of the time. Sometimes I will do this and other times not.
- Ignore the fact that one person always does nothing or worse, cheats: There will always be someone in the group who does not pull their own weight, mostly by never showing up to any group meetings. This makes my American blood boil because this person will be receiving the same grade I do, when I bust my ass. In discussing it with my groupmates 100% of the time no one thinks it is a good idea to report this lack of participation to the teacher. Not even when one group member submited three pages of directly plagiarized work and I was forced to rewrite it or submit a piece of work with my name on it that had been plagiarized or had a 3 page gap in it could I get the group to report this person to the teacher. I admit, in every case I chickened out of reporting it myself, mostly because we are usually 5 people in the group and I wanted some back-up.
- Compromise, compromise, compromise – this means just say yes: When I did a group paper in the US it was a crazy experience. We argued, debated, went back and forth and in the end had a nice solid paper we could all agree on. It wasn't pretty, but we all started as strangers and left as friends. In Sweden, I find it hard to debate with my groupmates without becoming 'overbearing.' The thing is they back down right away. And seriously, I may think I am right, but I am not always right. Discussion and debate is a valuable learning tool. But instead it is all, OK, let's see how we can add that' or a quick change of subject.