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Group Work

Writing a Group Contract

A group contract is a document you create with your group that formalizes how members will work together to complete a project.

When students write down and agree upon the ground rules, expectations, roles, and responsibilities as a group contract, they can help keep one another on track and accountable for their work.

In this section, we'll talk about what you should include in a group contract, how to set clear expectations and assign responsibilities, and how to create a project timeline to keep your group on track.

How to Write a Group Contract

Introduction to Group Contracts

Many common group work problems can be avoided with a bit of planning and communication. Learn more about group contracts by watching the video and clicking on the information boxes below:

A group contract is a document you create with your group in order to formalize the expectations of group members. It is created collaboratively with your group and can evolve to suit the needs of the group members. Some of the ways a group contract can help include:

  • It sets out what you all expect from each other.
  • It facilitates communication and sets the tone for how your group interacts.
  • It can increase motivation and feelings of ownership among all group members.
  • It identifies the consequences of failing to meet the expectations of the group.

A group contract typically includes the following elements:

  • Names and contact information of group members.
  • Expectations and ground rules for the group, such as how frequently you’ll meet.
  • Roles and responsibilities of each of the group members.
  • How you will handle any conflicts that come up.
  • A description of your project.
  • A timeline of how you’ll get it done.

Even if your group decides to not create a formal contract, it's a good idea to talk about these key areas before you start your project.

Check out the Group Contract Template to start building your own group contract! Look through the other tabs in this section to find explanations and examples of how to fill out this template.


Expectations & Rules for the Group

We all have different work styles, communication preferences, assignment strategies, and project ideas—so how do you make sure everyone feels heard and respected when you work in a group?

Watch the video or read more about setting expectations below:

Agreeing on Ground Rules & Expectations

Set some expectations and ground rules when you first meet with your group. These can include:

  • How often will you meet? (e.g., every week or every two weeks)
  • Where will you meet? (e.g., on campus, at someone’s house, or online)
  • How often will you check in with each other? (e.g,. only at meetings or through regular emails)

Once you’ve figured out what works for you as a group, all group members need to commit to these expectations.

Roles & Responsibilities for Group Members

What kinds of tasks do you like doing? Which skills do you want to develop further?

It's important to consider how your strengths align with the skills and knowledge of your group members so you can assign specific roles to each person.

Watch the video or read more about roles and responsibilities below:

Dividing Roles & Responsibilities

Start by figuring out which roles you need for your group and what the responsibilities are for each role. Then decide which group member(s) will fill each role.

Check out the boxes below for more details on a few sample roles you might need for your group:

The Leader:

  • Leads the discussion and encourages all group members to participate.
  • Helps guide the conversation by asking open-ended questions and focusing on positive statements.
  • Summarizes and clarifies group comments, and checks for consensus or questions from group members.

The Organizer:

  • Keeps the project on track.
  • Schedules the group meetings and makes sure meetings follow an agenda.
  • Takes notes at meetings to send to everyone afterwards.

The Researcher(s):

  • Researches topics for the project, and presents this information to the group.
  • Finds sources and information that is used to write the assignment.

The Troubleshooter/Brainstormer:

  • Thinks about positives/negatives of ideas presented by the group and comes up with possible solutions to problems.
  • Tries to make sure the project is meeting the assignment expectations that were given by the professor.

The Writer(s):

  • Writes the project/report/presentation.
  • Makes sure to get their job done on time, so that the Editor has time to go over everything.

The Editor:

  • Compiles contributions from different group members to make them flow together as one consistent work.
  • Edits and proofreads the completed work before it is submitted.

The Presenter(s):

  • Works with other group members to create the presentation.
  • Presents their assignment to the class.

Some of these roles are designed for multiple people. For example, all group member will likely have to be researchers, writers, and presenters.

You should also keep in mind that some roles (e.g., the Editor) may involve more work than other roles—this means that person will need to take on fewer additional roles during the project.

Creating a Timeline for Completing Your Work

When you’re working in a group, time management becomes an even more important skill—your group needs to leave enough time for everyone to finish their work and bring it all together, which means creating a project timeline.

Watch the video or read more about creating a project timeline below:

How to Create a Project Timeline

  1. Describe the project: What do you need to create? For example, do you need a written report, a presentation, or maybe both?
  2. Determine what research needs to be done: What information will you have to find to create these products?
  3. Break your project into ‘chunks’: What are the smaller steps involved in your project? Examples include:
    • brainstorming ideas
    • researching information
    • writing individual sections
    • compiling sections
    • editing the final draft
  4. Write down the due date for the assignment and your own due dates for each step of the project. How much work is required for each step? For example, research will require more work than brainstorming, so you should schedule more time for your group to complete it.
  5. Add the names of group members beside each step. Who is responsible for each part based on their roles in the group?

Putting It All Together

Now that you've discussed expectations, assigned roles and responsibilities, and created a timeline for the project, you can create a group contract to formalize these agreements.

Watch the video or read more about how to create your group contract below.

How to Create a Group Contract

  1. Add the name of the project and the project due date.
  2. Add the name and contact information of each group member.
  3. Add the expectations you discussed into the box labelled Personal Interactions.
  4. Add the Roles that your group discussed, as well as the responsibilities for each role.
  5. Write down which group member has been assigned to each role in the box labelled Distribution of Workload.
  6. Decide how you will manage conflict within the group. For example, you could agree to attempt to work out conflict among yourselves before you escalate a problem to your professor.
  7. Add the description of your project, the products you will need to create, and the research that is needed to complete the project.
  8. Add your timeline, including the parts of the projects, the due dates, and the group members responsible for each section.
  9. All the group members add their signatures to the bottom of the document to indicate that they agree to abide by the terms.

Tips for Creating Group Contracts

  • Set expectations to avoid resentment

    Deciding things like how often you will meet at the beginning of your project makes it clear what is expected of your group members.

  • Avoid uneven workloads with clear roles and responsibilities

    Determine who is responsible for each role within the group. This helps everyone know how they need to contribute, and makes uneven distribution of work more obvious.

  • Remember that some roles are more work than others

    Roles (like the Editor) involve a lot of work. When you’re agreeing on roles, try to spread out the workload evenly; some people could take on multiple lighter roles.

  • Create a timeline to avoid the last minute rush

    Give each chunk of the project a deadline so group members all have enough time to complete their parts.

  • Create a contract collaboratively

    The contract is an agreement between your group members, and it should reflect the needs of the group. Those needs might change over time—revisit your group contract during the project to make sure everyone's needs are still being met.