Group working is a core activity at university. The group working skills you learn during your studies will also set you up for your future career. It is vital therefore, that you develop effective strategies to establish and maintain effective group cohesion when working on group tasks and assignments.
Follow our Five Step Guide to help you succeed in group activities.
Step 1: Get to know each other
Before you start to work on your group task, take time to work on team building - find out about each other's interests, strengths and preferences when it comes to academic work. For example, one member might be an enthusiastic researcher, while another may be a skilled writer.
Establishing a team identity at the beginning of your group project will help you bond as a team and may save you a lot of potential grief later on in the process.
Step 2: Establish ground rules (see also Ground rules agreement for group work)
Another important thing to do before you begin your group working task is to agree on a set of open and fair group rules. These rules should set out clearly what is expected of each member with shared obligations and responsibilities. These rules may include areas such as:
- Respect the views of others
- Everyone's opinion counts
- Shared responsibilities and workloads
- Prepare for meetings and set agendas
- Co-operate and compromise - be generous and inspiring - don't compete with each other
- Meet deadlines and keep records
- Respect the ground rules agreement - don't ignore it!
Step 3: Allocate roles and tasks
Identify the strengths and personal preferences of group members and set roles and tasks accordingly. But be ready to switch if things aren't working.
Roles may include:
- Team leader/chair - level of power set by group. The leader may make final decisions, be a motivator, time & target keeper, and/or mediator, if required.
- Editor - collects and collates project materials & check continuity of work to ensure a unified cohesive approach. The editor can also look for gaps, issues and oversee the big picture.
- Researcher - the bookworm and google scholar whizz. The researcher digs out relevant and suitable materials to support the project.
- Administrator - maintains accurate records of meetings: agendas minutes, actions etc, and is responsible for communication between group members.
Step 4: Plan your project and set interim targets
Unpack project activities and break them down into manageable sub-tasks with achievable and realistic targets. You can set both individual and group targets.
Remember: be realistic - don't underestimate how long or how difficult tasks can be, and support members if they look like they are struggling.
Step 5: Meet regularly to check progress, and maintain unity of project and group
Regular meetings will ensure that group cohesion is maintained and any conflict or inter-group issues can be sorted before they escalate. Meetings help to reduce stress levels, troubleshoot issues and maintain team spirit!
The Effective Online Group Work module will also help you to understand the benefits and challenges of working in online groups and explain how to develop effective team-working strategies.
Adapted from: Hopkins, D. and Reid, T., 2018. The Academic Skills Handbook: Your Guide to Success in Writing, Thinking and Communicating at University. Sage.