Getting started with group work

A group of food biosciences students starting work on a group projectYou shouldn't assume that your students will necessarily understand the benefits of group work, or indeed that they are able to work effectively in a group environment. Preparing your students for group work is crucial and an important first step is for you to articulate why you are using a group work approach in the first place.

Remember that students may not always be positive about working in groups, especially if they have been allocated to a team in which there are no familiar faces, and/or if from their perspective it's composed of some 'undesirable' ones! Students may also be reluctant to take part in group-based tasks because of lack of group work experience or indeed because of a previous negative experience. Depending on the cohort you may have groups in which there are students who already have experience of group work (as part of their studies or extra-curricular) and groups in which there are diverse personality types which could lead to 'conflicts'. It's therefore really important for you to take time to articulate your expectations and to support groups in setting off on the right foot, especially if this is their first experience of group work at university. Find out more about the steps you can take to support group work.

There are also a number of things to bear in mind when planning a group work exercise, such as the size and composition of the group and how you can encourage collaboration while minimising collusion.

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