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About this book

Using examples of real students’ successful group projects, this succinct and supportive guide will help students tackle group assignments with confidence. Bite-sized chapters take students from forming a group and establishing roles through to dealing with conflict and delivering a group assessment. The book contains practical advice on making decisions and active listening, alongside opportunities to reflect on progress and identify opportunities for improvement.

This is an essential resource for all students who are expected to produce a group project as part of their course, regardless of their level or discipline.

Table of Contents

Getting Ready for Groupwork

Frontmatter

1. Why do students work in groups at university?

Abstract
More students attend university than ever before, increasing demands on resources which have not expanded at the same rate. Groupwork allows resources, such as ibrary material and room facilities, to be shared. There is also the assessment load on tutors — 40 group reports or presentations are much quicker to mark than 200 individual assignments.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

2. What do you expect from groupwork?

Abstract
You are sitting in the first class of the module. The tutor is going through what to expect during this module. You hear the following words: ‘… and you will be working in groups from week three’.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

3. The key challenges of groupwork

Abstract
Working effectively with other people takes a bit of getting used to. It is a valuable skill and, like any skill, you get better at it with practice.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

Creating the Team

Frontmatter

4. How groups are selected

Abstract
Tutors can use one of three ways:
1
Random allocation (like counting off people where they are sitting 1, 2, 3, … 6).
 
2
Letting students choose themselves.
 
3
Tutor allocation — where the tutor uses some preset criteria to form the groups.
 
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

5. The first meeting — getting it right

Abstract
The first time a student group meets together is very important. In many groups it will be the first time that you have met at least some of the other people in the group. Even if you know the other people, it may be the first time you have worked on the same project. In either case, the first meeting is where you get to know other group members and start organising the rest of the project. Getting it right can give you a big push on the way to success.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

6. Agree your ground rules

Abstract
A good way to get your group off to a good start is to agree guidelines or ‘ground rules’ to ensure that everyone is clear from the start about what is expected.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

Organising your Group

Frontmatter

7. Understanding the task

Abstract
People often interpret instructions and tasks in different ways. So do not leap into specific activities before you are confident that all the group members share a common view of what you are trying to achieve.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

8. Team roles

Abstract
Some groups decide that the best way to organise themselves is to allocate certain roles. Team roles often include a leader/manager — but beware adopting styles which will only work in an organisation with a clear hierarchy (see the next theory box).
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

9. Organising meetings

Abstract
Schedule regular meetings. Ideally, try and find a regular time to meet at the start of the project so people can build it in to their schedule (and remember it!)
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

10. Making decisions

Abstract
Your group should have discussed in the first meeting how you want decisions made. After a couple of meetings, review how this is working.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

Relationships and Communication

Frontmatter

11. Analysing what is going on

Abstract
Entertainers talk about ‘reading’ their audience — studying their actions and reactions to decide how they are likely to respond (and adjusting their act accordingly). You can develop skills in ‘reading’ your group — deciding what is going on and how people are feeling and then determining what you can or should do about it.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

12. Reviewing and revising your ground rules

Abstract
In Part 2 we discussed ground rules in two categories:
  • communication and attitudes
  • working practice.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

13. Dealing with conflict

Abstract
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a group will find itself in conflict. This can upset everyone and may have a severe impact on effective group working. What can you do if this happens to your group?
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

Assessment and Reflection

Frontmatter

14. Meeting assessment criteria

Abstract
On pages 35–7 we emphasised the importance of working out in detail what the assignment was about. What counts as good performance? This is a really important point and we make no apology for repeating it.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

15. Reflecting on your experience

Abstract
The point about feedback is to use it — to help you to review your performance and plan to improve upon it next time. Reflection can be a powerful tool for learning from experience and doing differently — and better — next time.
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson

16. Writing up your reflection

Abstract
If you have made notes on important events in your group’s history, you will have plenty of material to use in your write-up when you draw on some of the theory introduced in this book (see Kolb, p. 6, Belbin, pp. 52–4 or the five steps, p. 98).
Peter Hartley, Mark Dawson
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