10 Effective Group Work Strategies for High School Projects

Posted on December 22 2020

A group of high school students work together on a project.

Have you ever had a negative experience with group work? Maybe one of your classmates didn’t contribute as much as everyone else, a member of the group was too overbearing, or everyone kept getting distracted.

Group work can be challenging, but it can also be more fun and productive than working alone. Even small group projects can teach you skills that you’ll use for the rest of your life.

Once you understand the benefits of working collaboratively, using strategies that make group work more effective becomes easier.

Benefits of Group Work

Many teachers and students recognize the benefits of group work and projects, and research supports the idea that group work is rewarding. A study of high school students conducted by the American Institutes for Research found that collaborative work helped students feel more challenged, supported, and engaged.

Learning From Others

The most obvious benefit of doing group work is the opportunity to combine the knowledge and skills of multiple people. Group assignments and projects should be challenging, and complex problems become much easier when collaborators can share and build on ideas.

Working with others also provides a chance to learn about how other people approach problem-solving. Collaborating with people with different viewpoints expands your ability to think through problems and come up with creative solutions.

Preparing for the Future

Doing group work isn’t simply about completing an assignment or project. Teachers assign group work because it helps students develop important social skills. Collaboration requires cooperation and conflict resolution. Students also learn to give and receive feedback. Those interpersonal skills become even more important as you get older and progress through school and work environments.

Group work also provides opportunities for students to emerge as leaders. In some cases, leadership roles are clearly defined. You might be nominated to lead your project group in a high school class or promoted to a management role when you become a professional. However, not all leaders are in official leadership roles. Students act as leaders when they fulfill their responsibilities and help their peers make valuable contributions. Learning to use effective group work strategies can help you in the classroom and eventually in your workplace and your community.

10 Strategies for Group Work

Effective group work strategies can address some of the challenges of working collaboratively and make it more likely that everyone involved gets the most from a lesson or project. Not all of the following tips will apply to every group work situation, but most can be adapted to any school task involving more than one student.

1. Make Introductions

When projects or study groups involve classmates you don’t know well, spending some time at the beginning for introductions is important. In addition to learning names, introductory conversations provide an opportunity to find out how people like to communicate, how familiar they are with the assigned topic, and what their comfort levels are with certain tasks. Knowing details like these can make it easier to divide the work and assign roles that all group members can manage.

2. Keep It Manageable

Sometimes, teachers assign group work and decide who will work together. Other times, students might form their own work groups to study or tackle projects. If you create your own group, be sure to keep it a manageable size. Groups of two to five people generally work more effectively than larger groups because it’s easier to divide tasks and hold everyone accountable.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Setting standards for individual contributions can help prevent conflicts from arising. This can include assigning specific roles or setting ground rules for behavior. For example, groups might decide who is responsible for researching specific topics or agree that everyone has a chance to speak during discussions.

4. Get Everyone’s Signoff

Setting expectations only works if everyone agrees to their responsibilities and the goals of the group. Make sure each group member understands their role and feels good about the way tasks have been divided. Some group members may be reluctant to voice a complaint or concern, so try to get a verbal confirmation from each person.

5. Include Some “We Time” and Some “Me Time”

Not all group work is done in a group. As important as it is to collaborate with others when planning projects, developing ideas, and presenting work, most group projects require some time when each member does individual work. Plan time to work together and time to work individually or in smaller breakout groups.

6. Schedule Breaks

Working with others should be fun, but you can easily get distracted from the task at hand when you enjoy interacting with classmates. One effective time management strategy is to schedule your breaks. It’s easier for everyone to stay focused for an hour if they have a 20-minute break at the end.

7. Embrace Technology

Group work increasingly happens online. Tools for sharing documents and communication platforms that allow for group meetings can be essential. Just make sure everyone has access to the same technology or accommodations for sharing resources before group work begins.

8. Keep Group Business in the Group

Disagreements are inevitable in any group. Whether it’s a personality conflict or specific complaints about the contributions of a peer, disagreements should be addressed in the group. Remember, one of the goals of group work is to accomplish tasks and work through problems as a group.

9. Hold Yourself and Others Accountable

One of the most common problems students experience with group work is when some group members do too much of the work while others do too little. Setting expectations at the beginning of a project or activity helps avoid uneven contributions, but holding everyone accountable is an ongoing process. Be sure to check in as the project progresses to make sure everyone is on schedule to complete their tasks.

10. Make It Fun

One of the benefits of group work is the energy that comes from working as a team. Staying on task is important, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Consider giving your team a name or doing an icebreaker activity during scheduled downtime to encourage teamwork and reduce stress.

Taking Charge of Your Education

Working collaboratively requires students to be accountable and take responsibility for their own education. Individual courses offered by The American Academy give students the opportunity to earn and make up high school credits online. Students can work at their own pace to complete English, math, and science courses, as well as career and technical education courses.

The American Academy offers a private, fully accredited path for students who want to recover credits, work ahead, or take courses that aren’t available at their schools. The curriculum is designed to meet the individual needs of students with virtual classes that are available at any time. Visit The American Academy to learn more about options for augmenting your education or earning a high school diploma from start to finish.


Recommended Readings

Back to School Organizational Tips for High School Students

How to be a Good Student and Why It Matters

Stress Management for High School Students: Strategies and Activities


American Institutes for Research, “Learning With Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and Equity”

Edutopia, “Group Work That Works”

Edutopia, “Setting Up Effective Group Work”

Faculty Focus, “Students Riding on Coattails during Group Work? Five Simple Ideas to Try”

TeachHUB, “Benefits of Group Work”