6 ways to make group work work
We all know the moment. Your tutor is running through the assessments for your subject and you hear that line, “For assessment 2 you’ll need to form groups…”.
For some of us groupwork evokes chills of Stranger Things proportions. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Learning how to work well as part of a team or with networks is an essential skill for your future. You’ll unlikely be able to turn around and say, “No, I don’t want to work with him/her.”
So, to make the most out of the experience, and enjoy it, here are some tips.
1. Establish a common goal
As much as we may love uni, not everyone’s striving for HDs. Straight up make sure you agree as a group on the grade you want. This way you’ll know how much effort you’re all willing (and able) to put in. If you’re an HD-lover paired with someone out for a pass, you might want to ask your tutor about switching groups early.
2. Set the ground rules
Our commitments can be enough without stressing that Dave is ALWAYS missing the group meet-up. Agree early as a group on how you’ll collaborate, and importantly, how often. Not everyone’s studying full-time (in fact one in four students work while studying) so discussing your availabilities and how much time you can commit early will help stop the passive-aggressive texts later-on.
What to agree on:
- How often should we meet?
- How will we communicate? UTS Online, Teams, Google docs? Try to limit your tools so as not to overwhelm everyone.
- What’s the protocol if someone’s running late or misses a group meeting?
Some groups might even like to develop a groupwork contract and update it as you go. It’ll make sure you’re on the same page (and might keep the procrastination monkey at bay)
3. Assign tasks and set a schedule
Take the prep time to map out what needs to be done, by who and when. This will avoid duplication or missing out on something big later on. While you’re at it, create a schedule for meeting up (online or in-person). Ensure everyone has access to these plans and refer to / update them regularly.
4. Give regular (and respectful) feedback
Not loving someone’s idea? Feedback is important and will often give you a chance to learn from different perspectives. But make sure you deliver it in a respectful way.
- Try to do it one-on-one: No-one wants to be publicly shamed.
- Be positive: “That’s interesting. How about xx”
- Don’t make it personal.
- Create a vibe where everyone feels open to sharing ideas and having open discussions.
Be open to feedback and deliver it often as a group. Don’t wait till the last minute when it might just stress out group members.
5. Be positive, have empathy and ask for help if you need it
Groupwork is a part of life and you’ll DEFINITELY need to work in groups in your career. But there may be times, no matter how much effort you put in, your group (or a member in it) just isn’t gelling.
Be empathetic (maybe someone’s having a really difficult time? Or maybe they’re simply too embarrassed to say they don’t understand something?). See if you can help in some way, i.e. if they’re having a hard time maybe they’d benefit from the Counselling services? If they just can’t get their work done, they might like some procrastination support. There's a range of services at UTS ready to help both you and your team.
Remember you can always talk to your tutor for advice and support if you’re stuck (just let them know early and try not to leave it to the night before the assessment is due!).
It’s not all doom and gloom. A good group can be AMAZING. You meet new people, can bounce ideas around and share the stress as that submission date looms. Once it’s all done, make sure you celebrate your work together. The more networks made at uni, the bigger your career network in life.
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