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Home » Student Guide to Group Work » Planning the Project

Planning the Project

This module focuses on strategies and techniques for effective group project planning to help your group stay on track and meet deadlines. This includes identifying and negotiating roles, learning about tools and approaches that can help you plan effectively, as well as highlighting resources to help your group with key academic skills, like research and writing, which are commonly integral to the group project planning process.

Students may benefit from using this module in tandem with the recently launched Student Project Toolkit.

Understand Your Assignment

  • Review group assignment objectives and instructions to determine the purpose of the assignment and what you are being asked to do
  • Identify assignment elements such as percentage of final grade, due date, etc. and review any provided rubric to help set priorities
  • Connect with your professor or TA to provide clarity around the assignment as questions arise
  • Consult our Understanding Your Group Assignment Checklist to help you record the main requirements of your group assignment.

Tools & Templates

This SPARK Understanding the Assignment module prompts you to reflect on the general requirements of assignments in a university context, including purpose and audience. It introduces you to different assignment types and addresses differences in disciplinary approaches.

The Understanding Your Group Assignment Checklist helps you record the main requirements for an assignment. If you will be submitting your assignment in several stages (e.g., a bibliography and proposal, followed by a research paper or presentation), use separate sheets if it makes the process easier. If your group is unable to answer any of the questions or complete the details in the checklist, consult your instructor or TA.

Identify Group Roles & Tasks

  • Use the assignment requirements to identify group tasks and review any guidelines regarding group roles or tasks that might be included
  • Identify what academic integrity conventions apply to the group project. When the rules are not clearly stated, ask your instructor for clarification
  • Identify the strengths and interests of  individual group members (see the Understanding the Team module and especially the Self-Reflective Team Communication Exercise  and Group Inventory Tool)
  • Determine which form of group leadership best suits your group. Will there be one facilitator or leader or will this role rotate?
  • Identify the scope of the roles and decide which are best handled by individuals, and which by more than one person as they may be more work-intensive
    • How roles are divided depends on your context and the size of your group. For example, in a small group, one person may need to take on multiple roles
  • Identify and negotiate other group member roles, e.g., facilitator, note taker, time keeper, devil’s advocate, and checker/editor. Consult our Guide to Group Roles & Maximizing Performance
  • Remember that when you take on a role, you need to take ownership for making sure associated tasks are completed; however this does not necessarily mean you do everything. Your role may be to coordinate and work with other team members to make sure the work gets done

Tools & Templates

The Guide to Group Roles & Maximizing Performance provides you with examples of common group work roles and associated key tasks and typical phrases with the goal of fostering effective communication and group productivity.

This SPARK Academic Integrity module will help you and your group understand the values, practices, and conventions associated with practicing academic integrity and avoiding academic dishonesty. You will also learn how to apply the rules and principles of academic integrity in individual and group work.

You may also wish to consult these five interactive videos featuring common academic integrity scenarios which form part of the Academic Honesty @ York Modules.

Consult Student Resources on academic integrity at YorkU for yet more resources and information.

The Integrity in Group Work Checklist will help you recognize important elements of academic integrity and formulate strategies for working with academic integrity.

Plan Ahead

  • Work backwards from the  assignment due date(s) to map out deadlines and tasks. See our Tasks Planning Tool Template and Tasks Planning Tool Sample
  • Engage in microtasking or chunking out tasks to meet the larger goal of completing the group project on time. Identify and document specific tasks to be accomplished, using the steps outlined in Understand your Assignment
  • Negotiate and document who will work on each task based on strengths, interests, availability etc.
  • Be mindful of each other’s schedules and save time by using calendaring or polling tools available to you through York or freely available online. See our Communication & Planning Tools Guide
  • Schedule several group check-ins to stay on track and make modifications as your project progresses
  • Collaborate to undertake tasks that require academic and process-based skills common in group projects, such as research, writing, note-taking, presentation, and digital media skills
  • Remember to document the sources that you consult and reference them using a consistent bibliographic style.  See our Creating Bibliographies SPARK module for APA, Chicago, & MLA style overviews

Tools & Templates

The Tasks Planning Tool Template, for use in tandem with the Tasks Planning Tool Sample, will allow you to plan out a group project by identifying tasks, subtasks, timelines, roles and more.

The Tasks Planning Tool Sample offers you a populated planning tool illustrating how a group project can be mapped out into tasks, subtasks, timelines, roles and more. Use in tandem with the Tasks Planning Tool Template to customize this resource for your own group project.

The Group Assignment Task Checklist provides a list of tasks and allows you to estimate the time you and your group will need to complete them. Keep in mind that assignments differ and that you may not need to devote time to all of the items on the list. Use this resource in tandem with the Tasks Planning Tool Template and the Tasks Planning Tool Sample

The Communication & Planning Tools Guide helps you discover tools that can be used to support communication, planning and other functions or tasks that a group typically needs to engage in to be effective and productive. Under each broad category you will find links to software or tools made available to students at York University, as well as tools that are available with full or partial features/functionality on the free web.

The SPARK Time Management module helps you develop techniques for managing your time effectively. This includes setting priorities, identifying major phases for assignment task preparation, strategies for overcoming procrastination, and creating a realistic schedule.

The SPARK Creating Bibliographies module will help you learn why and how to cite sources for a group project including tips on avoiding inadvertent plagiarism that can result from poor citation practices. It provides an overview of the standard citation conventions (APA and MLA, for example), and introduces online citation management systems such as Zotero.

Use Planning Tools

  • Use collaborative project implementation and planning tools available to you as a York student or other free cloud-based tools. See our Communication & Planning Tools Guide
  • Provide opportunities for group members to identify their technological constraints and work with tools accessible to the whole group
    • Recognize that some group members may be less familiar with technology or may have less access to computing resources or to a reliable internet connection
    • Remember that not everyone will be able to work remotely from a comfortable, private, and quiet space
  • Use both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (non-simultaneous) approaches as they suit different needs (e.g., group members may be in different time zones)
  • Citation management tools are also useful to keep track of sources that the group has consulted and to generate in-text citations and reference lists for the group project. See the Libraries’ guides to Zotero and Mendeley for options you can use

Tools & Templates

The Communication & Planning Tools Guide helps you discover tools that can be used to support communication, planning and other functions or tasks that a group typically needs to engage in to be effective and productive. Under each broad category you will find links to software or tools made available to students at York University, as well as tools that are available with full or partial features/functionality on the free web.

The Student Guide to Remote and Online Learning helps you to become a more effective remote learner. This tool includes many resources that can help with group communication and planning, e.g., sections on getting tech ready, giving online presentations, and forming online study groups.

Use the Libraries’ Zotero guide to learn about how this free tool can save you time and help groups collect, share, manage and cite resources. Remember to always check final citations generated against the guidelines offered in the style manual you are using.

Except where otherwise noted, all resources in the Student Guide to Group Work, authored by the Learning Commons at York University in 2020, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. If you reuse, adapt or build upon this work, please cite The Student Guide to Group Work, Learning Commons, York University and link to