During my first term of my masters program, I was reintroduced to the wide world of classroom group projects. Typically, these were greeted with an air of contempt by all parties in a group, making each situtation seem even more burdensome. It also seemed that the larger the size of the group, the more tension and apprehension surfaced. However, after a few weeks into a term-long project, one professor took the time in class to have a discussion about how group dynamics can be challenging, but should also be seen as an opportunity for a collaborative endeavor that can generate work that is unconventional and fun.
Following this session, my group reconvened and talked for the first time about how to be a group. For weeks we had been meeting during and after class sessions but had never really created anything tangible for our project.
We decided that it would be worthwhile to be social with one another and to reframe our meeting times as an opportunity to get to know one another (important as each of us would have an impact on everyone else's workload and ultimate grade). We moved out of the classroom and began to meet in spaces that would inspire us.
We had been tasked with imagining how we would construct a library with the concept of 'space' as the primary concern in structuring design and services. Meeting in museums, a church converted into brewery, a hot dog joint, newer libraries, restaurants and bars scattered around the city allowed for each of us to explore a new environment, talk about the places that we were at and ultimately learn about the varied interests that we had.
Through each of us expressing ourselves, we were able to identify the different strengths that each group member had to offer. We were able to divided the workload more meaningfully and everyone seemingly enjoyed the portion that they contributed to the final project. We opened ourselves up to how we could represent our work.
Instead of a paper and a presentation, we created dioramas of our spaces, made a scrapbook from our meeting notes and scraps, and talked about work informally to our classmates.
Each of us had truly contributed to the project and had a comprehensive awareness of what we had accomplished. It seemed that most importantly, we had learned how to truly work as a cohseive group.