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Group work

Starting your group project

You may be required to work in groups as part of your course. Groupwork is fundamental to many graduate jobs so it’s good to be able to work on these skills at university.

The people that make up your group will often work in different ways and at a different pace, and these pages aim to help you to think about strategies to make your group work well.

You can find some useful books about working in groups in the Skills Collection. Success in Groupwork is a particularly good book to read on this topic.

This content has been adapted from Learn Higher’s Groupwork guidance.

Forming a group

Your group might be formed randomly, or by a tutor. Group members may or may not already know one another, and some of you may have more experience of group work than others. All of these factors will influence how quickly and effectively your group settles into working together.

Positive first meetings

The first time that your group meets can have a big impact on the overall success of your group. Finding a date to suit everyone can be difficult.

Try online Doodle polls to create a multiple choice of dates and times, which you can mark as “available”, “unavailable”, or “available if need be but not ideal”.

Online calendars such as Apple Calendar or Google Calendar are great for sending your group event information, so that everyone has the details of the meeting date, time and location. Online calendars have the benefit of being easily edited and can be synced to your phone and email to send useful reminders.

Make sure that you meet in a suitable space.

There are several things that you could focus on in your first meeting, depending on how much time you have. Here are some suggestions for important topics to discuss.

Ground rules

Think about how often you will meet, how the group will communicate between meetings, how decisions will be documented, and interpersonal issues such as making sure that everyone has a role and treating one another professionally.

To make group brainstorming easier to co-ordinate, try creating a digital mind-map using MindView or Coggle. Coggle is easier to access and share with each other as it is online. MindView has more features but is only accessible through university computers. By sharing your mind-map, members of the group can add their thoughts, resulting in an attractive, well organised starting point.

Understanding the task

Discuss the task that you have been set, read the guidelines carefully, and break it down together. This will help your group to understand what tasks need to be completed to achieve a successful outcome. Some groups fall into criticising the task, but this won’t help you to make progress.

Allocating work

Once you have discussed the task generally, the group will need to create an action plan to ensure that all of the individual jobs that make up the larger task are completed on time, and in the right order. Don’t forget that you should share the workload as equally as possible, and take account of the preferences and skills of all group members. The group might decide to divide the work between smaller sub-groups, or to individuals, so be prepared to be flexible and collaborate with others.

Online to-do lists are particularly useful for group work, as you can keep track of group tasks and who is doing what, without sending lots of WhatsApp messages. Google Keep allows you to set location-based reminders and record voice notes, whereas Microsoft To Do and Trello are particularly useful for creating projects and breaking them down into sub-tasks.