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Essential Study Skills

Agreeing on Expectations

When you’re working on a group project, it can sometimes feel like no one is on the same page. This module explains a potential solution to this problem: the group contract. The group contract is an agreement between all members of a group that helps you work together more cohesively.


  • 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 the group members.
  • Avoid uneven workloads with clear roles and responsibilities.Determine who is responsible for each role within the group. This helps every one 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 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.

Creating an Agreement

About Group Contract?

Many common group work problems can be avoided with a bit of planning and communication. Enter the group contract. Watch the video or read more about it below.

What is a Group Contract?

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 feeling of ownership among all group members.
  • It identifies the consequences of failing to meet the expectations of the group.

What’s in a Group Contract?

A group contract would typically include the following elements:

  • Names and contact information of group members
  • The expectations and ground rules for the group, such as how frequently you’ll meet
  • The 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

Whether or not you decide to create a formal contract, it is a good idea to discuss these things before you start your project.

You can use our Group Contract Template to create your own group contract. You can find explanations and examples of how to fill out the sections of this template in the tabs.

Expectations and Rules for the Group

If you are in a group with three other people, chances are you’ll have four different ideas about how your team work should go. Your group project will go a lot more smoothly if you discuss ground rules and expectations. Watch the video or read more about setting expectations below.

Agreeing on Ground Rules and Expectations

When you first meet with your group, set some expectations and ground rules. 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, group members have to commit to meeting these expectations.

Roles and Responsibilities for Group Members

When you’re working in a group, it is important to decide what each group member is responsible for. Watch the video or read more about roles and responsibilities below.

Dividing Roles and Responsibilities

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

Example roles:

  • The Leader:
    • Leads discussion and encourages all members of the group.
    • 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 Trouble-Shooter/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 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 the roles are for multiple people. All group member will likely have to be researchers, writers, and presenters. You should also keep in mind that some roles, such as editor, may involve more work than other roles.

Creating a Timeline for Completing Your Work

It can be tempting to leave everything to the last minute, but when you’re working in a group it’s even more important to get things done in plenty of time. Your group needs to leave enough time for everyone to be able to do their part, and that means creating a timeline. Watch the video or read more about creating a project timeline below.

How to Create a Project Timeline

Use our Project Timeline Template - open in a new window to complete the following steps:

  1. Describe the project. What do you need to have ready? 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 projects into ‘chunks’. What are the smaller steps involved in your project? Examples include:
    • brainstorming ideas
    • researching information
    • writing individual sections
    • compiling sections
    • editing 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 allot 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

Once you have 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

Use our Group Contract Template- open in a new window to complete the following steps:

  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.