Aug. 26, 2021

Setting up Successful Group Work

When working on a groupwork assignment, you may find yourself in situations where you do not know some of your group members, or you are not able to choose your group. Even if you can choose your group, you may not know how those people typically like to work on their assignments and the best way for you all to work together.
Group working

When it comes to ensuring your group can work well together, it is all about how you set up and manage the group dynamics.

  1. First take time to get to know each other in a more informal meeting, before jumping straight to the work. By taking the time to build social bonds, you will break the ice with group members and start to build connections through shared experiences.
  2. As you get to know each other and start to consider the work you need to  complete, there is potential for conflict to arise. Rather than avoiding this you should actively steer into it, taking time to get these issues down on paper or in a shared online document. What do each of you expect in terms of a final grade? Who has a lot of other work and is worried about workload? Who wants to meet more/less regularly? Getting all of these concerns out will help as you move into the next step.
  3. Now that you’ve built up trust by getting to know each other, and shared all your concerns openly, you can move ahead to setting up how you want your group to operate. This could be a discussion and agreement in a meeting, or you could note this down in a shared document, creating a “group contract”. Setting clear expectations for when, how, and to what standard you all expect the work to be done will help keep you all on the same page.
  4. Now that all of this is set up and agreed upon, you can get to work! It is also good at this moment to discuss how you can help each other if someone runs into something unexpected, like illness or other demands on their time outside school. Plan regular check-ins, whether that is in-person meetings, or checking in online. Working on a shared online document and making “comments” on it can be a good way to check-in between scheduled meetings.
  5. The last step is to submit your work. While that seems like an end to the group, it is also a time to reconnect and celebrate completing your assignment. If this is a first- or second-year class, you may have future classes with your group members, so taking some time to recognize that work that has been completed and share a coffee (coming back to the social connections from step 1) can help you with future projects, and to make some new friends as you move on in your degree.

Following these steps should help your group perform effectively and manage challenges that arise. A reminder with any groupwork – be sure to follow the instructions of your professor, especially with reference to how the work is completed by each member and submitted (one paper/presentation or individual work).



Mary F. Maples (1988) Group development: Extending Tuckman's theory, The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 13:1, 17-23, DOI: 10.1080/01933928808411771