Benefits of group work
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Working in groups can provide you with valuable learning opportunities. It can help you learn to see other people’s point of view and to learn from and with one another. The ability to work collaboratively is an important life skill and is in demand from both professional bodies and employers. Problem-based learning frequently involves elements of group work and research evidence shows that this consistently results in enhanced student learning. Working in groups can help you develop a number of interpersonal skills:
- emotional intelligence;
- conflict resolution;
- giving and receiving feedback.
Examples of these skills can be given at interview, demonstrating how you resolved a particular group situation and perhaps what you would do next time if the same situation arose to bring about a resolution. See our Group Work resources for additional help for both you and your group to succeed in your task and make the most of the experience. Group Work can be assessed in a number of ways. Please check your assessment criteria to identify how you are expected to demonstrate learning.
How to manage group work
Managing group working can be a serious challenge when the work is assessed. In successful groups all members of the group contribute. This is achieved by:
- clear goal setting;
- clear professional communication between members of the group;
- an agreed leader who brings the rest of the group together and monitors steady progress towards the shared final goal.
When organising to work in a group, it is useful to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the potential group members. Belbin Team Roles are often used to describe different ways people behave in groups. Successful groups tend to have a balance of different personalities, with a range of strengths which reduce the impact of any weaknesses.
Problems usually arise when one or more members of the group fail to ‘pull their weight’. This can be for genuine reasons (i.e. illness) and less genuine reasons. Whatever the reason, the group must address it quickly and try to resolve the problem between themselves in the first instance. If it can’t be resolved quickly the group should contact their tutor in good time to receive further support. In summary:
- ground rules should be pre-determined and clearly communicated;
- monitoring group performance should be student-led;
- create an opportunity for tutor feedback and intervention where necessary.
See our Group Work resources for help for you and your group to succeed in your task and make the most of the experience. Group Work can be assessed in a number of ways. Please check your assessment criteria to identify how you are expected to demonstrate learning.
Self and peer assessment
Self-assessment and peer assessment is where you assess your own work and that of other students. It is done to help you take greater responsibility for your learning and to develop your ability to reflect objectively on your own performance and that of your peers. The goal of peer and self-assessment is to identify your mistakes, strengths and weaknesses and use these to plan the next learning steps. To do this successfully you need to really understand the assessment criteria and be able to apply these to your own work and that of your peers.
As students you will not have experience in marking and for some peer-assessment is a real challenge, potentially full of tensions and anxieties, so it’s important to be sensitive when assessing your peers. The best feedback is objective, constructive and specific. Consider the kind of feedback that would help you develop as a learner and use this as a model. Your module leader should explain the marking criteria, why you’re using peer-assessment and the process. In summary:
- take time to understand the assessment criteria;
- ensure you are clear about your role in the overall process;
- make your feedback and evaluations specific, objective and constructive.