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As stressful as it can be, group work can be really beneficial in the long run, as it resembles the dynamic of serving on a committee, participating in a working group, or working on a collaborative project found in most work environments.

Benefits of Group Work

Whatever form the group task takes in your course, the opportunity to work with others, rather than on your own, can provide distinct benefits. Among them are:

Increased productivity and performance

Groups that work well together can achieve much more than individuals who work on their own. A wider range of skills can be applied to practical activities and the process of sharing and discussing ideas can play a pivotal role in deepening your understanding of the research problem. This process also increases opportunities to apply strategies of critical inquiry and creative or radical problem-solving to an issue.

Skills development

Being part of a team will help you develop your interpersonal skills. This may include expressing your ideas clearly, listening carefully to others, participating effectively in the group’s deliberations, and clearly articulating the results of your research to group members. Group work can also help develop collaborative skills, such as team leadership and effective motivation of others. These skills will be useful to you throughout your academic career and are all in high demand by employers.

Know yourself better

Working with others will help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses in a collaborative context. For example, you may be a better leader than a listener, or you may be good at the “big idea” but not as good at developing a specific action plan. A greater self-knowledge of the challenges you may have when working with others will improve overall learning experiences. Also in this case, this knowledge of yourself will be very valuable when you enter the world of work.

The meeting place of the group is important

The choice of meeting place can influence both the overall success of the group and the quality of communication and joint work. When your group is first formed, be sure to set aside some time to discuss and come to an agreement on where to meet in the future. Obviously, convenience has a lot to do with possible options. However, discussions about the meeting place should also focus on identifying a space that is comfortable, easily accessible to all, and has no distractions, such as the smell of surrounding food, heavy foot traffic, or constant noise,

The places that meet all these conditions are the collaborative work rooms or the group study spaces. These rooms can accommodate between 4 and 10 people and all of them have dry cleaning boards and connection to the electricity grid. Most rooms also have large monitors with laptop connections that your group can use to display a presentation, document, spreadsheet, or other information that is at the center of their collaborative work. Please note that these rooms are very popular, so you should schedule them in advance and be courteous when canceling your reservation so that others can use the room.

Stages of Group Work

Start of the activity

To make sure your group is off to a good start, it can be beneficial

Take time for all members to introduce themselves, including their name, background and setting out their specific strengths to contribute to the overall goals of the task.

Appoint or vote for someone to act as a group leader or facilitator or programmer. If the burden may be too great, consider deciding on the rotation of this responsibility among all members of the group.

Exchange current contact information, such as email addresses, social media information, and mobile phone numbers.

Consider creating an online workspace account to facilitate discussions, document editing, file sharing, brainstorming, and managing a group calendar. There are many free online platforms available for this type of work, such as Google Docs.

Discuss goals and tasks

After you and the other members of the group agree on how to approach the task, take the time to make sure everyone understands what they need to accomplish. Think about the following:

What are the objectives of the task? Develop a shared understanding of the expected learning outcomes of the task to ensure that everyone knows what their role is within the group.

Write down the assignment due date [o la fecha de entrega de cada parte] so that everyone is on the same schedule and each group member can address in advance any potential conflicts with assignment due dates in other classes.

Discuss how you will specifically meet the requirements of the task. For example, if the task is to write a research grant model, what topic are you going to research and which organizations are you going to apply for funding?

If the teacher allows great flexibility in achieving the objectives of the task, it is usually useful to brainstorm and then evaluate the merits of each separately. As a group, reflect on the following questions: How much do you already know about this topic? Is it an interesting topic for everyone? If it’s not interesting to some, they may not feel motivated to work as much as on a topic they find interesting. Can you do a good job on this topic in the time available? With the people available? With the available resources? Is it easy or difficult to get good information on the subject? [NOTE: Check with a librarian before assuming that information may be too difficult to find.]

Planning and preparation

This is the stage where your group should plan exactly what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and determine who should do what. Pay attention to the following:

Work together to divide the project into separate tasks and decide which tasks or subtasks each member is responsible for. Make sure the work is distributed equally among each member of the group.

Agree on the completion dates of each task, keeping in mind that members will need time to review the draft documents and that the group should have time at the end to gather everything.

Develop mechanisms for staying in touch, meeting regularly, and preferred methods for sharing information. Discuss and identify any potential obstacles that may arise that may hinder your work [e.g., midterm exams].

Implementation

As each member carries out their individual tasks, it is important to preserve their group’s focus and sense of purpose. Effective communication is vital, especially when the group’s activity lasts for a long period of time. Here are some tips for promoting good communication:

Stay in touch with others frequently, regularly reporting on progress made. When the group meets for the first time, think about setting a regular day and time for people to report on their [ya sea en persona o en línea] progress.

If someone is having trouble completing their area of responsibility, work with that person to figure out how to solve the problem. Support and help, but don’t offer to do the work of others.

At the same time, he makes it clear that the group depends on everyone doing their part; all members of the group must agree that it is harmful to everyone in the group for a person to appear at the last moment without their work done.

Culmination

Be sure to leave enough time to put all the pieces together before the group project is ready and to make sure nothing has been forgotten [for example, someone forgot to correct a graphic or a page is missing]. Synthesizing the work of each member of the group usually requires some negotiation and, collectively, overcoming any existing obstacles to its completion. Technically, this can be done online, but it’s best to meet in person to make sure everyone is actively involved in the process.

If your group has to make a presentation about the results of their research, follow the same process: decide who is going to do what and give everyone enough time to prepare and practice in [preferiblemente juntos] advance. At this time, before the delivery of the task, it is critical to pay special attention to details, tie up loose ends, and review the research project as a team, rather than just reviewing individual contributions.

Drafting of the project

Writing the group’s report can be challenging; it is essential that you leave enough time for this final stage. If your group has decided to split the responsibility for writing the sections, you’ll need to appoint a member of the group [si no lo has hecho ya] to unify everything, so that the narrative flows well and isn’t disjointed. Make it their task instead of assigning that person to also write a section of the report. It is best to choose who in your group is the best writer, as careful editing at this stage is essential to ensure that the final document is well organized and logically structured.

Focus on the following:

Do all the writers in your group use the same writing style [e.g., verb tense, diction or choice of words, tone, voice, etc.]?

Are there smooth transitions between the different sections?

Are quotations from sources, abbreviations, and non-textual elements [charts, graphs, tables, etc.] consistent?

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Bibliographic References

Bilandzic, Mark and Marcus Foth. “Libraries as Coworking Spaces: Understanding User Motivations and Perceived Barriers to Social Learning,” Library Hi Tech 31 (2013): 254-273.

Barkley, Elizabeth F., Claire Howell Major, and K. Patricia Cross. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014

INDOT. Group Work and Report Planning Handout. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University

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Group Work

Group Work. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Helena Lopes

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