Challenges

However, group work - particularly when assessment is involved - also presents a challenge. It can be a very new experience for many students, so they may not know what is expected of them and so do not gain from the group, or contribute to it, as much as they could.

Exercise:
Imagine you have joined a group of relative strangers to work on a collaborative project that will be judged and assessed by others. There are ten of you. From the start things go badly wrong - and get worse! Group members fail to get on with each other and fail to work together successfully on the project. So, what would cause this to happen?

Try and separate out the reasons into two types:

  1. Process related reasons (the procedures for running the group don’t work). An example: There are no ‘ground rules’ agreed, on, for example, when, where and how often the group will meet
  2. People related reasons (there are problems among the group members themselves). An example: One or two people try to dominate the others

Think of as many reasons as you can.

Key points
  • Assessed group work contributes to your overall course marks.
  • It is a good way of meeting other people from different social and cultural backgrounds.
  • It can be a challenging experience, but it helps to know in advance what problems might occur so you can be ready to deal with them.

Many problems in groups stem from the individual members themselves. Specific problems, particularly talking too much - or not at all - often arise from anxiety and misunderstanding. But we all have strengths to contribute to the success of any group - and weaknesses that we need to be aware of. 

It may help to consider the personality types of the group members. A useful guide to the Myers-Briggs personality test is available in Unit 2 of the TransIT site. You can use it for self assessment and reflection.