And finally ...

Here are some pointers from the SCEBE Learning Development Centre which neatly sum up the issues involved in groupwork.

  • Establish clear aims: Are you preparing a seminar, sharing the background reading for a topic, or revising together? What exactly is the group trying to achieve?.
  • Talk: Let each other know what you are doing, remember you are part of a group; not a superhero or a martyr - never say ‘’ll just do everything myself!’ There is no such thing as a group of one!
  • Decide on the division of tasks: Who is going to look for sources and where?  It is a waste of time if everyone searches the internet or looks for the same books and journals.
  • Accept that people are different: Remember not everyone works at the same pace; you may be a ‘speedy Gonzales’ but others in the group may not have the time or energy to work at the same pace!
  • Look at the strengths in the group: People have different learning styles and study in different ways. Some are good at searching out references, others at note taking, writing up the project or keeping the group on track. You may be a natural leader, but remember leadership should be democratic.
  • Decide on a timetable: Accept that people have a life outside the university. Group members may be working, or have family commitments. It is no help if there are too many meetings but no time for the collection of information.
  • Keep the meetings short and purposeful: Do not become side-tracked. This is not the time for everyone to moan, or blame one another. You have a job to do. Agree on an agenda, then you will know what you have achieved and what still needs to be done.

Now, just do it! But remember:

  • to listen to each other. You can constructively criticise the material but not the person.
  • the final product should clearly indicate which section is your work. Just because you have studied together does not mean that you should be submitting the same work or someone else’s work under your name. This could lead to plagiarism!
  • if you are still having problems, make an appointment with your Learning Development Centre, either on your own or as a group.