Guidelines for student work (group work)

Group work can facilitate student learning, improve relationships among students and prepare students to work in groups in their future careers. Monash prepares its graduates to be (Monash Graduate Attributes Policy):

  1. Responsible and effective global citizens
  2. Critical and creative scholars

An effective team can generate better solutions that individuals working alone. Information Technology graduates need to be able to be able to demonstrate effective teamwork which can be achieved by working in student groups to develop collaborative skills, communication skills, presentation skills as well as responsible behaviour.

Group work can be as simple participating in group activities in your tutorial or laboratory sessions or by set group assessment tasks.

Why do group work?

Group activities can develop your skills in working in teams something that employers value very highly

  • Communication skills (clear effective communication takes into consideration team member expectations)
  • Interpersonal skills and cross-cultural communication (understanding of different body language and that the people interpret things differently)
  • Conflict management (resolving different values, perspectives or opinions and reaching agreement)
  • Meeting skills (collective decision making, planning and follow-up, participation from all members)
  • Time and resource management (plan and develop a flexible schedule so you can complete required tasks on time, as well as your other activities)

Commencing your group activity:

  • Get to know your group. If you have not previously met the other members of the group spend some time to get to know each other - talk about backgrounds and interests and exchange contact details. During the group activity, you may need to allow additional time for relationship building. Yes, it can take longer to do a group activity than if you working on the task individually, but the end result should be a better product.
  • Consider the purpose of the group assessment activity
    • Clarify the assignment requirements. Together, discuss the activity and be sure you all agree on what needs to be done. Consider guidelines (provided by your lecturer) on how the group activity will be assessed (e.g. strategy for allocating marks in a way that recognises differential contributions of group members). Break the task into sub-tasks, and determine what can be done independently and what needs to be done together.
  • Establish and make clear group members' roles and responsibilities, including that of the group leader. Draw on group members' strengths in allocating roles, and give group members the opportunity to develop new skills.
  • Establish meeting times and set tasks to be completed by each meeting date. Reinforce the importance to team members of completing their allocated tasks on time.

What makes an effective group?

Working effectively in a group can be very satisfying and rewarding as well as a challenging experience. Group members need to work together and the way members relate to each other can impact on how well the group performs. It is important to develop group relationships, establish ground rules and focus on the task. Some tips for developing groups skills include:

Skill:Tip:
CommunicationTo help develop communication skills, establish and maintain open communication lines, so that issues and problems can be raised and resolved objectively:
  1. Together you will need to establish and maintain communication channels and discuss how you will handle problems or difficulties that can affect the task and how you will deal with these.
  2. Together, you will need to establish ground rules. You need to agree on some protocols, ground rules and consequences if the rules are broken. These can vary depending on the number of members in the group and the type of activity.
  3. Allow time for communication and understanding
Interpersonal skills and cross-cultural communication
  1. Be polite and respect cultural differences
  2. Make sure all group members have a chance to participate in the group communication
Conflict management
  1. Be objective about problems that arise i.e. talk about the issue(s), not the person(s)
  2. Be prepared to renegotiate
  3. When things go wrong, often open communication can assist in resolving issues and conflicts. If problems become irreconcilable, consult your tutor in the first instance. If the problem still cannot be resolved, consult your lecturer
Meetings
  1. Plan your meetings by letting everyone know when and where the meeting will be, as well as the main things that need to be discussed i.e. have an agenda (list of things to discuss)
  2. Develop and use meeting procedures i.e. stick to the agenda, only one person to speak at a time, chairperson to ensure meeting procedures are followed
  3. Record meeting minutes with main points, any decisions made, action items and person responsible (include dates where applicable)
  4. Ensure everyone has a copy of the minutes ASAP
Time and resource managementManage your time effectively particularly if you have group assessment activities in other units you are studying. You will need to create a flexible schedule that works for you and meets your personal goals i.e. you will need to prioritise your activities.

For medium groups or larger activities (e.g. projects) consider procedures for:

Finally ...

Remember that group work is a great opportunity for you to develop teamwork skills. Take the opportunity to learn as much as possible about working successfully with other people. If difficulties arise, work strategically and objectively to resolve, and view as a learning opportunity about teamwork. These skills and understandings will position you well in the global workplace when you graduate as aresponsible and effective global citizen and critical and creative scholar.

Further useful resources:

  1. Language and Learning Online. A guide to group work
  2. Faculty of Engineering, Monash University. Learning effectively through Groupwork. (pdf)
  3. Deakin University. Working in groups.