Group work is commonly used within university assessments, so you will likely encounter it over the course of your degree. Working in a group builds a range of skills sought after by employers: communication and interpersonal skills, conflict management, project management, leadership skills and more.
However, for all the benefits that group work provides, it’s true that it can sometimes be challenging. This module provides tips and advice to help you get the most out of group work and overcome any problems that may arise.
After completing this module, you should be confident in your ability to:
Once your group has been established, Aston indicates the first step to any successful group project is a kick-off meeting. This is the first meeting with the team, and involves setting expectations on communication styles and methods, and how you want to collaborate as a team.
By the end of the meeting, the team should have “a shared understanding about what you’re working on, why [you’re working on it], and how the work will be accomplished” according to Martins.
Laying a good foundation will help prevent future conflict and misunderstandings.
Over the course of kick-off meeting, you should fill out a group assignment planner. This way, all decisions and relevant information will be recorded and available to everyone in the team to refer to when needed.
The overall aim of a kick-off meeting is for the group to come to a consensus on the following:
These may seem like obvious questions, but every person has a unique perspective on submission times, communication, working through conflict and more. Putting these into a group assignment planner will ensure that your group is on the same page. It’s also handy to refer to if you have disagreements or misunderstandings later.
The key to successful group work is project management. According to Wrike, project management is the “practice of applying knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to complete a project according to specific requirements”.
Group work is not only about the project – it is also about teamwork, organisation, time management, responsibility, and accountability.
There are four key stages in group work project management: familiarisation, planning and preparation, implementation, and completion.
In this first stage of group work, individual members of the group get to know each other and begin to understand the task they need to undertake. You don’t need to be best friends to work effectively together in a group.
Everyone in your group will have a range of diverse skills and experiences. They will have different strengths and weaknesses, and utilising these will make your final product stronger.
Make sure everyone understands what they will need to achieve.
The planning stage is where your group decides exactly what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and who should do what.
While it may be convenient to split the work by assigning someone to each element needing to be produced, it’s important to break down each element to see how much work is involved in each sub-task. For example, a presentation requires visual aids, written notes, preparation for questions and rehearsal, while a written report involves brainstorming, searching for and analysing sources, writing sections, and editing and proofreading. Each of these tasks take a different amount of time an effort, so be careful to review the sub-tasks before assigning things.
The implementation stage of the project is the longest stage, as it covers the development of the assignment. During this stage, everyone in the group works on their assigned tasks and keeps in regular contact about progress and challenges.
Each time you meet, it’s important to record any updates, progress or outcomes. We recommend using our group work minute template. Assign a chairperson during the meeting to lead discussion and keep everyone on track, as well as a scribe to fill out details in the minutes.
Once the meeting is complete, ensure that all group members have access to this document. It will outline any assigned actions or challenges.
During this process, you may encounter some conflict, but most of this can be managed internally among group members.
The final stage of your project is often the most difficult. It will be vital to ensure that you pay close attention to detail, tie up loose ends, and review the whole project, rather than only your individual part.
It is also important to regroup at this stage to agree on a new action plan for the final burst of activity.