At the University of Waikato, students are often required to complete tasks and assessments in groups. The purpose of group work is to give students some practical experience of working in teams in the workplace. Group work allows students the opportunity to negotiate the successful completion of assigned projects.
Why work in groups?
- To experience and understand about interacting with others, especially in the workplace.
- To develop communication, analytical, and practical skills.
- To share and discuss ideas, and actively participate in projects.
Effective group work
An effective group functions well when all members do the following:
- Get to know each other and identify members' strengths and weaknesses
- Work together to complete tasks
- Develop group dynamics, and build good working relationships
- Communicate well, set up plans and design workable rules
There can be positives of working together such as everyone sharing the workload and listening to others' perspectives. There can also be challenges such as finding suitable meeting times and maintaining even workloads.
Group work strategies
- Delegate all group members a specific task to do and ensure that everyone understands the task's requirements
- Give members a role for example, group coordinator, secretary, etc.
- Work to a deadline and establish rules/guidelines
- Share all members’ contact details and keep in touch constantly
- Keep minutes of group meetings
It is important to appreciate cultural diversity in the workplace, and students need to support group members who may have different language backgrounds. They may have a different way of approaching the task, and offer interesting unique views on them. All members’ contributions should be valued and respected.
Avoiding conflict in group work
If group members do not participate or contribute to your tasks, you should notify your tutor/lecturer. In some cases, group members can actually be fired, but only with the approval of the teacher.
- Provide constructive feedback; don’t turn criticism into personal attacks
- Don’t allow one member to dominate or take up too much time. Set rules and time limits, then refer back to them if needed
Strategies for online group work
Different classes throughout the University may use discussion boards, class forums, Facebook groups and Moodle for posting messages.
- Check online discussions regularly
- Participate in online discussions, acknowledge and respect the contributions of others and comment appropriately
- Don’t take comments personally