Preparing for group work

When you hear the phrase ‘group work’, what do you feel? Are you excited at the prospect of meeting new people and working collaboratively? Or do you dread the unknown dynamic you’re about to walk into? It’s normal to be concerned about whether or not your teammates will do their fair share, if you’ll work together smoothly, and if you’ll get the assessment finished on time. But with a contract, clear communication, and a bit of planning you can alleviate these fears, and keep your group project focused and fair for everyone involved.

Group Work Contract

Group work is designed to mimic real-world working conditions. In the workplace, you need to negotiate with colleagues, and navigate schedules, personality differences, and outcomes. It will be up to you and your team to decide how best to divide the project. The same is true at university: you are given the task, but are not told who should do what, when, and how. In order to keep yourself and your team organised, having a document which outlines the roles and responsibilities of each team member can help alleviate the stress of staying on track, and later help with moderating conflicts.

A group contract outlines the following:

  • Project outline
  • Assignment of roles and writing tasks
  • Communication strategies
  • Conduct between members and conflict resolution
  • Meeting times and deadlines
  • Disciplinary action
  • Signatures of team members

Monash Pharmacy Library has put together a contract tool that you can use. Simply head over to their Moodle page, click on ‘self-enrol’, and get typing!

Clear Communication

Clear communication is key to ensuring you and your team stay on top of your deadlines. Agree at the beginning on how you will communicate (i.e. by email or Facebook), and create a shared online drive where you can store all notes, meeting minutes, and research. This will be useful later when you offer constructive feedback to each other. You each have strengths to bring to the project: draw on these to produce.

Note that you need to think critically about your own ideas and how to clearly express them to avoid misunderstandings. Remember to be open to other’s ideas, problem solve issues together, and be respectful: listen attentively, tactfully address performance issues, and encouraging each other.

Planning

Group work is a great way to learn and improve your planning and time management skills, as you must negotiate the schedules of others, including your own, as well as the interests of each member of your group. While you’ll set up a plan in the beginning through your contract, remember that flexibility is key to succeeding in a group. Be honest about your own progress, and aware of the progress of others. If you notice someone struggling to meet deadlines, you need to raise the issue respectfully, and work together to adjust their – and your – workload. Having regular meetings will help you to stay on top of each other’s progress, and is a great way to support each other through face-to-face meetings.

Conclusion

Group work doesn’t have to be daunting: by keeping these tips in mind you can ensure your next group work project goes smoothly. Check out Research and Learning Online for more on group contracts, and the very best of luck!


About the author:
Dr Stephanie Jury is a Learning Skills Adviser at the Pharmacy Library, Parkville campus.