Collaboration

Working with others is something you will be asked to do time and time again, both at University and beyond. At face value, this might seem like something that is easy enough, but there are many challenges that working with others is likely to present. You need to consider how you will adapt to each challenge to get the most out of not only the group, but yourself too.

As a student, now is the ideal time to develop this skill. You are given the opportunity to work with your peers; these are people in exactly the same position as you, going through the same experiences, and likely to share a lot of the same worries you do. This is a safe and supportive environment in which you can discuss ideas, learn from each other, and develop key skills that will benefit you throughout your entire career. Your peers might well have developed hard-won knowledge about how best to approach a subject you are really struggling with; in turn you might have worked out plenty for yourself that others just haven’t realised. Furthermore, you can help one another hugely simply by acting as a sympathetic audience and “ critical friend”.

It’s for all of these reasons and more that you will often be expected to participate in group tasks and activities, or might set these up yourself.  

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The main thing to remember here, is that you are all working towards the same goal, and want to achieve as much as possible. These pages are designed to help you think about how to go about doing that, and to deal with any challenges that might arise along the way. Here are some key things you need to remember:

  • Collectively, a group has more strengths than any individual working alone
  • You all learn in different ways; you need to consider other people’s learning styles when working in a group.
  • You need to understand your role in a group, as well as everyone else’s
  • You have an opportunity to share ideas. This means learning as well as being given the opportunity to present ideas clearly, and share your own knowledge.
  • You will encounter difficulties, this is inevitable. The important thing is how you deal with them
  • Not everyone will always agree; everyone come with their own experience and opinions
  • Emotions can often run high; people can be very protective of their ideas
  • Sometimes you run out of ideas as a group; you need to work together to get round this.

Working with other students can make you behave differently than if you were working by yourself. It's the same for everyone, which makes seeing those behaviours unfold and change as the group comes together one of the pleasures – and potential pains – of group work. If it didn’t, and if everyone remained resolutely the same no matter what circumstances they were in, many of the benefits of group work wouldn’t be achieved. So the question becomes one of working through the dynamics that emerge within a group, rather than trying to work around them.

  • The more aware you are of how you’re behaving, the more potential there is for changing, and helping the group change too.
  • Awareness also helps you understand why others in the group behave in certain ways; you can step back and ask whether or not this behaviour has to do with you as individuals, or how you as a group are working.

In other words, understanding group dynamics eases some of the heartache of group work, as you realise that difficulties are not always caused by particular individuals within a group (yourself included), but rather about the way you have all approached the task together.

Top Tips
  • Think about what your own strengths/ positive attributes are, as well as things you are less comfortable with. This will help you identify what you can bring to the group, as well as the things you would find more difficult on your own.
  • Stay open minded
  • Be a good communicator. This means genuinely listening, as well as being able to present you own ideas. Be constructive with your feedback.
  • Be organised. Treat the process professionally. So set ground rules, allocate different roles or tasks to each member, and make sure everyone is kept aware of developments.
  • Reflect and review. Make sure you are sticking to deadlines, and dealing with any issues as they arise. Most importantly, do this as a group. Make sure that no one is making decisions individually.
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