Tips for Groupwork

This page was written by students, for students.

Why work in groups?

The aim of group work is to produce more effective, more detailed and more comprehensive work. By collaborating you can use the combined talents of group members, with everyone contributing knowledge and ideas. Tools such as thought showers means that you can quickly get together a broader range of opinions than you could as individuals.

Collaborative learning provides a livelier environment to work in and can be a break from hours sitting in the library alone. Furthermore, it´s a much deeper learning experience as you can share research and gain an appreciation of other people´s perspectives.

In addition, when working alone it can be hard to stay motivated. Working with others allows you to lean on others and motivate each other. This means you´re more likely to get the work done efficiently and effectively.

Difficulties of group working

Sometimes working with other people can be difficult. Some personalities naturally clash. Furthermore, if individuals in the group don´t pull their weight it can be demoralising. Sometimes working together isn´t as constructive as it could be as time can be wasted by not having a clear strategy or wasting time discussing rather than doing. However following our tips below can help avoid these problems so read on!

Suggestions for Effective Group Work

Communication

Communication is the key. Make sure everyone knows what you are aiming for, decided on your aims at the beginning and stick to them. Listen to and value other people´s opinions – even if you disagree with them. By doing this you will gather a broad range of opinions and get the best results out of group work.

Use all available resources

Use all your resources, ask tutors for advice – that´s what they are there for. Use the CILASS rooms and technology as they can improve the effectiveness of the work that you do. The MOLE discussion boards, accessible via MUSE, can also be an effective way of exchanging ideas with others.

Equal Workload

Everyone should do their fair share - a good way to ensure that this happens is to allocate work to all team members. If you can´t do your bit, let the others know in order that work can be reallocated. If you have decided to have a group leader then it is this person´s role to gently remind people about their commitment if and when necessary. However, this should always be done constructively and tactfully, bearing in mind that that person may be under a lot of pressure from other commitments. Group work is all about team effort, with everyone doing their bit.

Address problems together

If something goes wrong arrange a meeting and address it as a group. Think back to what your aims are and how they can be achieved. It can help to write a group contract at the outset of the project which stipulates the aims of the group. Group members should each sign the contract and agree to comply by the stated rules, thus avoiding argument should problems arise at a later stage. By doing this, the group has a clear set of guidelines to follow. Such a contract could include the following rules:

  • All group members must try to attend all meetings, and if unable to do so must inform at least one other group member.
  • All group members must contribute equally to the project and inform other members when they may not be able to complete their agreed tasks.
  • All group members should be aiming for a high 2:1.
  • Group members should discuss problems collaboratively so that they can be worked through as a group.

Make sure any criticisms are constructive and whatever you do, don´t get personal! If you can´t meet your original deadlines re-evaluate how you are working and try and find out where things are going wrong. Re-assign work and adjust your deadlines if necessary. But keep positive - just because you have to change your plans it doesn´t mean you are doing anything wrong. Learning from mistakes is one of the most effective methods of self-improvement!

Checklist

Have you…

  • …decided upon a group structure?
  • …agreed your aims?
  • …sorted out who will be doing what?
  • …organised your next few meetings?
  • …agreed on what to do if there are problems?
  • …listened to each other?
  • …thought about all the resources available to you?