Showing posts with label collaboration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label collaboration. Show all posts

24 April 2017

Getting group work done

Do you find group assignments difficult? It can be challenging to work with others, but that’s why these assignments exist - you’re being assessed on your teamwork skills, not just your content knowledge. Get the most out of your group with tips from librarian Clinton Bell.

Set team rules, goals and expectations before you start work

Before you actually start working on your assignment, it’s a good idea to set ground rules for the group. These include things like when and where you will meet, how you will communicate, and so on. Make sure everyone gets a say - it’s no good setting a meeting time if half your group can’t make it!

You should also talk about the task and make sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes people interpret instructions differently, overlook an important detail, or have different expectations about how the assignment should be completed. Making sure everyone is clear about what needs to be done before you start helps you avoid a lot of problems later on.

Communicate with your team

It’s important for everyone in the group to communicate regularly. This helps make sure everyone is making progress on their tasks, and allows problems to be addressed before they cause if trouble. It also allows the team to make suggestions and improve on each other’s work.

If you’re having trouble, you’re not sure what you should be doing, or you’re not certain if what you’ve done is okay, let your team know! It’s better to sort it out early than wait until just before the assignment is due. Conversely, if someone else is having difficulty, help them out.

It can also be a good idea to keep a copy of documents in a shared space, such as Google Drive. This is great for providing suggestions and feedback, and helps everyone keep an eye on how the assignment is progressing. It also means that if something happens to one of your group you still have access to the stuff they were working on.

Everyone is responsible for every part of the end product

A group assignment isn’t “several individual assignments, stapled together”. As a group, you need to make sure you produce a coherent product and that all parts of the assignment are of an acceptable standard. It’s fine to put people in charge of a specific task, but they shouldn’t be working in complete isolation.

Throughout the assignment, everyone should share what they’ve done and provide feedback on the others’ work. You should also allow time before you submit to do a final round of editing. Look for differences in formatting, quality, and what you’re actually saying, and make sure everything is consistent.

Be a team player

Treat your teammates with respect. When giving suggestions or feedback, be constructive - focus on how to improve things, instead of complaining or assigning blame. Listen to your team and be prepared to compromise sometimes.

If you really want to do well, help your teammates get along with each other. If someone is having trouble being heard, ask directly for their opinion. If there are heated discussions and things get personal, try to smooth things over and refocus everyone on the task. When someone makes a good contribution, or compromises so the project can move forward, let them know you appreciate it.

If something is seriously wrong

Finally, if there is a major problem with the group, discuss it with your lecturer or tutor before the assignment is due. Dealing with minor problems is part of the task, but if something is seriously wrong it’s okay to raise it with your lecturer.

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13 September 2016

Strategies for success: Group assignments

Group assignments. So infamous they're among the most common of study memes. They can be tricky, but the end result is worth more than one might think. Michelle de Aizpurua and Emma Price are here to unpack successful strategies for managing your group assignment, and how to handle those social loafers...

It is not uncommon to feel a bit negative towards group assignments. Many students say they want to work individually because their experiences in previous group assignments have been less than ideal. You may feel like you are left doing all the work, but the assignment grades don’t reflect this. Trying to organise timing, as well as conflicting ideas among different members, can be a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work can be a very positive experience in your studies; it just takes a few easy steps to manage it effectively.

Why is group work important?

You can’t avoid working in groups, because in workplaces it is a vital skill. Effective group work is an increasingly important skill required by employers. Students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers. In job interviews, you can draw on your university experiences to answer questions about working in teams and challenges you have overcome, so it makes sense to develop these skills while studying.

What strategies can you use for successful group work?

In psychology, the tendency to ‘slack off’ when working in a group is a well-known phenomena called ‘social loafing’. Thankfully, however, these clever scientists have also found ways to reduce social loafing tendencies. Rothwell (2000) details the “three C’s of motivation” for effective group work: collaboration, choice and content [1]. In addition to these strategies, we would also add two more areas of great importance; communication and coordination. Let’s look at each of these and how you can utilise them in your group assignments.

Image: Michelle De Aizpurua

Everyone needs to get involved. The best way to achieve this is to set ground rules that dictate each person's role or tasks to complete, as well as the timeline for completion. You should also decide on when and how you will meet and communicate.

Make sure everyone agrees on these terms. Assigning someone a role without their agreement will simply cause frustration and complaints. If everyone is involved in the planning stage and has their thoughts considered, they are less likely to disengage from the group.

Each person should feel their role is of value to the group. Team members should choose a role in which they are confident they have the necessary skills to excel. Before you can choose tasks, your group will need to analyse the assignment closely to decide what is required and how you will achieve this. Once you have a clear picture on the assignment, you can then determine a fair and equal way of dividing the workload.

Being polite and respectful is important. Listening to everyone’s thoughts on the assignment and keeping an open mind to suggestions is essential. Be aware of your non-verbal communication (body language) when meeting together and focus on giving each other constructive feedback rather than negative criticism or ‘nit-picking’. At the same time, always consider any constructive feedback or suggestions you receive from your fellow group members and don’t take it personally.

Try to organise your meetings from the beginning of the assignment. This way you will all know what you are aiming for as a group with set milestones and tasks to be completed for each meeting. If availability is causing problems, you might want to discuss if online meetings will suit all of your group better, or a combination of online and face-to-face. Always record any decisions made, task allocations and assignment progress in every meeting.

(Dealing with) Conflict
Problems will often happen due to group dynamics or slow progress. If conflict does arise, clearly identify the problem as a group and avoid negative ‘finger-pointing’. Focus your discussion on constructive ideas (rather than on individuals) and consider practical solutions to address the problem. You may need to revise your plans or change your goals, but remember, this is all part of working in a team.

Group work can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. Through careful planning, active participation and good communication, your group work experience can be effective and positive.

Don’t forget the friendly Learning Skills Advisers at the Research and Learning Point drop-ins are available if you have any questions on effective group work, and remember to check for any upcoming workshops.

[1] J. D. Rothwell. (2000). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.

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26 February 2016

Introducing Monash Figshare: store and promote your research data

Are you unsure of the best place to securely store your research data? Maybe you’ve been asked to provide access to the data related to an article you have submitted for publication? Katrina Tepper outlines briefly how Figshare allows researchers to do all that.

Monash Figshare could be the solution you’ve been looking for.  

Key benefits include:      
  • Free: no direct cost, upload data yourself 
  • Secure: data is stored and backed up on Monash University servers, meets publisher/funder requirements for publishing data associated with research 
  • Data is citable: published data is automatically assigned a DOI (Digital object identifier)
  • Ownership: retain copyright, select a licence to specify re-use conditions 
  • Choice: set visibility to private or public, upload multiple file formats
  • Collaboration: Invite other researchers to view your data

Why not register today and check it out!

Further information:


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