Why group work?
Group work is a crucial part of life both at university and in the working environment. Therefore, while some students may feel intimidated by this and find the process difficult, it is important that you learn how to work with others.
Benefits of group work
Working in a group has many advantages. It enables you to learn from, and help, one another by drawing on each team member’s strengths, experiences and ideas. Working with others can enable you to find alternative ways of solving problems that you may not have considered on your own. The quality of work can improve when produced in a group. Finally, group work at university helps you to develop the essential team-working skills needed throughout your future career:
- Time management
Despite the benefits of teamwork, you may experience problems within a group. These might be addressed as follows:
Poor attendance – send reminders a couple of days before the meeting and, if someone does not turn up, contact them to tell them what they missed (and when the next meeting is) and politely remind them of their tasks and ask how they are getting on.
Lack of engagement – if a group member is being too quiet, encourage them to speak and be positive about their contributions. If someone is not taking the project seriously – try to ignore their antics and remind them that their contribution to the group project is important for their sake as well as the group’s.
Negativity – when a group member is being negative, ask them to consider positive points and try to turn their negative points into constructive suggestions.
Over assertiveness – if someone is dominating the group, ask them to chair the meetings, a role which would require them to encourage viewpoints from other members of the team.
Do not worry if you experience difficulties when working in a group. The process of overcoming them is an important skill in its own right and will prepare you well for future teamwork experiences.
Stages in group work
- Identify objectives and plan your tasks – introduce each other and discuss what you have been asked to do as a team. What task have you been set? How will you present the outcome? What do you need to do to accomplish this? What are the component tasks you need to complete to achieve the objectives you have been set?
- Establish roles – discuss the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members. Some will be more suited to certain tasks than others. Who is a strong team leader? Who is most suited to organising group meetings? Who produces good ideas? Who is careful and meticulous? Who is energetic and decisive? Who can be over-critical, or indecisive, or is a bad timekeeper?
- Delegate tasks – now you know the members of your group a little better, decide who is best suited to complete the individual tasks established earlier. Make sure that workloads are fairly and evenly distributed, and that deadlines for each task are set.
- Monitor progress – your team should meet regularly to discuss progress and address any related issues. Remember that even though you may be working on separate tasks, these will need to join together to form a single, coherent, piece of work. Ongoing discussion and revision of tasks will ensure that this objective is achieved efficiently and to the highest quality possible.
- Evaluation – once you have completed a group task, you should consider how well you and the group as a whole performed. Did you use and develop your skills? Did you make the most of your group’s strengths? Did you deal with problems effectively? What have you learnt from this task that will help you carry out future group work?
Source: Loughborough University (2019). Working in groups. Available from:
https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/library/students/learningsupport/topics/workingingroups/ [Accessed 28 August 2019].