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Study Guide - GroupWork

Introduction

Groupwork is a very important part of your , because it demonstrates your ability to communicate, discuss, and co-operate with other students. The purpose of including a group work component in your or course is to prepare you for your future occupation, which may require you to work in a group-based environment. Thus it is not surprising that the ability to work effectively in a group is a much-desired skill.

Why students dislike groupwork

Generally many students dislike group work, and find it easier to work individually. There are a number of reasons for this and they are addressed as follows:
  • Group members don't get on
    This is understandable, in view of the fact that some students have conflicting personalities, when you place them together in a situation where they have to work very closely with each other, there will be issues that need to be resolved.

  • Lack of Motivation
    In some situations group members may lack motivation. This too is understandable in view of the fact that often a group based or assignment may be associated with a subject/topic for which group members have little or no interest.

  • Differing Levels of Ability
    Some students may feel that it is unfair that they are in a group in which members do not have the interest, motivation or ability to attain the grades that they are used to. Thus any work produced will not be up to that student's usual standard and their overall mark may be affected.

  • Lack of inter-group Communication
    Some students may have had experiences of working within a group where a lack of communication within the group affected the working atmosphere. The group members may not have co-operated very well together and this showed in the work produced and the results attained.

  • Lack of Planning
    Some students may have had to deal with a lack of planning and organisation in previous group work activities. This is also made worse by the fact that members may not deal with issues that they face while working together. This can produce constant conflict, which can be very difficult to overcome. All this may affect their view of the benefits of working as a team.

The Advantages of Group Work

We have just looked at the reasons why students dislike group work, and in all fairness there are quite a few. However, if you take time to consider why group work exists in the first place you will notice that there are a number of advantages to de gained from it. These advantages are presented below:
  • Divide the Workload
    Group work is an effective means of dividing the workload. Many companies undertaking large projects divide the work into more manageable units by assigning groups to undertake the work. This allows for small sections or units to be completed providing a sense of completion for everyone and allows better management of the project as a whole.

  • Increased Productivity
    Group work allows work to be divided and completed to strict deadlines. Also the group as a whole can tackle problems when they arise. Productivity is further increased if an effective is chosen.

  • Brings Different Skills to the Table
    Each group member brings their own skills and knowledge into the group. The more skills and knowledge available, the easier a certain project or task becomes as work can be assigned on the basis of ability and experience.

  • Encourages Communication and Co-operation
    Group members must communicate and co-operate with each other in order to bring together different parts of a project or task. Such communication also ensures that any problems can be discussed with and dealt with by the group as opposed to individually.

The presented advantages of group work have been shown to be vital in the workplace as a means of tackling large which may involve many different departments within one company and possibly many companies. By participating within group work during your study you are gaining an insight into the issues that can arise when you have finished studying and are in employment.

Choosing Your Group

Sometimes, when you are asked to work in a group, your group is chosen for you. In the event that your group is chosen for you, you may be understandably disappointed in view of the fact that you did not get to work with those students that you would have liked to have in your group. However, you should not display your disappointment to the other group members, you must think positive. Your positive outlook should help other members of the group to think positive also.

In other cases you will be asked to pick group members yourself. If you are given the opportunity to pick group members yourself, you should take great care when doing so. One of the best ways to select group members is to choose those students, with which you have previously worked with and were successful. If however you have never undertaken a before, then the decision will be slightly more difficult. In such a situation you should think about how best to form a well-rounded team of members who will work effectively together. Normally it is wise to refrain from choosing a group based on friends.

The Role of A Team Leader

The role of the is essential to a successful group-based project or assignment. The team leader is responsible for allocating work to group members and for motivating the group. He/she must possess a number of leadership qualities these are listed below:
  • Good Communication and Motivation
    Generally a team leader should find it very easy to communicate with other members of the group and should thus be able to motivate them also.

  • Decisive
    A team leader should be able to envision what needs to be done, and have the ability to make critical decisions.

  • Reliable
    A good team leader should be willing to shoulder responsibility and offer support to the other group members as and when they need it.

  • Good at Planning
    A good team leader should be good at planning, organising and delegating work.

  • Good at Giving Feedback
    A good team leader should be able to give constructive feedback to group-members.

  • Good at Listening
    A good team leader should be able to listen to the views of all group members.

  • Take Criticism
    In addition to being able to criticise other team members, a good team leader should also be able to take criticism and respond to it in the most appropriate way.

Selecting A Team Leader

There are three general strategies for selecting a suitable they are addressed as follows:
  • Choose someone you already know
    This is a very simple way of choosing a team leader. If you have already worked with someone that you know has leadership capabilities above those of the other members in your group, then you select that person to be team leader.

  • Taking a Vote
    This involves a period of waiting until the leadership skills of group members begin to emerge. The vote will hopefully select the group member who possesses the most of the leadership skills described previously. The main disadvantage of this approach to selecting a team leader is the fact that there will obviously be a period of time where the group has no leader. A second disadvantage of this approach is that the vote may result in two members having the same amount of votes, in which case it may be difficult to choose between the two.


  • This is another effective means of selecting a team leader. It requires a document called a member analysis sheet to be created. The member analysis sheet is very easy to create and use. It consists of a number of skills with tick box's beside them, the idea being that each group member has a copy of the sheet, and they are required to tick the box's that represent the skills that they possess. The member with the most points on the analysis sheet should then be considered to be the team leader, although this does not have to be the case.

Once you have selected an appropriate you must make sure that they are happy to undertake the role of team leader. If they are unhappy then they should not be pressured into taking the role. In this situation you must then choose the next best group member.

Subsequent so choosing a team leader, you should choose a . This should obviously be much easier as you can simply select the next best team leader. The deputy team leader should take charge whenever the team leader in unavailable, for example due to illness.

Problems within the Group

It is not uncommon for a group to include one or more members that are not interested in undertaking the work that they may be assigned to do. Alternatively they may be over-or under at participating in meetings and the work. As soon as the team leader realises that a member is not contributing then they must first talk to that member to establish what the issue may be. If the team leader does accept the reason to be genuine he/she should urge the member to visit the course lecturer to discuss their problems. If however there is no genuine reason the team leader should discuss the problem with their straight away. The longer issues are unresolved the harder it becomes to work effectively as a group. This can then be detrimental to the work being completed on time and to the quality that is possible.

Another problem that can occur in the group is that of a group member becoming ill. In this situation the team leader should divide the work that was supposed to be carried out by the ill team member, equally amongst other members of the group. The team leader should then notify their tutor to explain the situation.

We have discussed the problem of a group member becoming ill, but what happens in the event that the team leader becomes ill. In reality this should not cause much of a problem if you have already elected a deputy . If you have not already elected a deputy team leader you will have to go through the process of choosing a deputy team leader at an extremely inconvenient time. Thus the key point is that you should make sure to pick a deputy team leader whilst choosing your team leader. Then if anything should happen to the team leader the deputy can manage the team.