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Showing posts with label group work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label group work. 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 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


Collaboration
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.


Choice
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.


Content
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.


Communication
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.


Coordination
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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9 May 2016

How to put the fun back into uni (essays, exams and all)


As you approach the end of semester you may find that most of your work is due at the same time. Yikes! Not only that - you have exams approaching fast. This can be stressful, especially if this is your first time, or if you haven’t done so well in past semesters. It is always worth remembering that you’re not alone. Form a study group and try these approaches to make studying more fun! ...by Damian Gleeson and Romany Manuell.


Form a study group

Study at uni can be a lonely business. Why not reach out to some people in your tutorial and form a study group? Ideally, a study group consists of 4 or 5 members… any more than that, and you’re looking at a party!

The DISC questionnaire can be a useful tool for determining your group members’ personalities and approaches to work. This can help you to identify the variety of strengths and areas that need work among your team mates. Once you’ve worked all this out, you may find something like this:
  • Student A is quiet, but takes meticulous lecture notes. Student A is a useful resource for the group for this reason. He’s a top record-keeper of key lecture content.
  • Student B is talkative and energetic. She is great at remembering conversations and important insights from your tutor. She’s both likeable and a natural leader. Combined with Student A’s lecture notes, you have the lecture and tute materials covered.
  • Student C’s strength is research and reading. They got a HD for the first assignment and your tutor singled out their excellent research, citing and referencing skills. Someone with this much attention to detail is a great resource to ensure that your group is at its most effective when revising the semester’s content.
  • Student D is also quiet and is not confident about her English language skills. However, she has work experience in the field you are studying, which allows her to clearly see and explain why the unit’s content is relevant to your group’s future professions.
So there is a wide range of personalities, skills and knowledge in your group. Cool! This means any areas that individual members think are weaknesses for them can be overcome by the members who are strong in those areas. Your strengths are not just an advantage for you - your team mates can also reap the benefits. Put your skills to use reviewing the reading, lecture and tutorial materials. Put your group to the test by working on past exam questions together.

Revision - turn a boring chore into clever fun

If this describes you and the way you like to work (left), take advantage of it (right). Why not take advantage of the way you like to work?

I like setting and meeting goals
Use a to-do list
I work best against the clock
I like to draw or doodle
Use mind maps to outline how to solve a problem
I like music
Write songs about important information that you need to remember. More here.
I’m a night owl. I enjoy staying up late
Study when you are most alert and do mundane tasks when you are least alert
Solve questions from the textbook
A no brainer
If there are few questions, turn chapter titles into questions then practise answering them.
For example:

Chapter titles
        Managing in a global environment
        Social responsibility and managerial ethics
        Managing change and innovation
        Motivating employees
(Robbins, Bergman, Stagg, & Coulter, 2012)
Requires a brain




Questions
        What issues arise for managers in a global environment?
        What is social responsibility and how do managerial ethics apply to it?
        How are change & innovation best managed?
        Why & how do managers motivate employees?





























If you remain uncertain about how to be efficient and take joy in your academic work, don’t forget a friendly Librarian or Learning Skills Adviser is available to speak with you at a drop in.



Damian Gleeson is a learning skills adviser and Romany Manuell is a subject librarian at Caulfield Library.

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26 April 2016

Strategies for group work

Group work can be a positive experience in your studies if you work as a team and follow some of these straight-forward strategies, says Emma Price, Learning Skills Adviser.


It is common to feel a bit discouraged or pessimistic when set a group assignment. Students often prefer to work individually due to previous negative experiences of group work. This could involve some kind of conflict within the group, people dropping off and leaving others to do all the work, or difficulties negotiating time or ideas amongst the group members. 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.

As an extra incentive, effective group work is essential to learn, as this 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. It also means you can demonstrate this skill in job interviews using your experiences at university. So it makes sense to develop these skills while studying.

So with all that in mind, here are some straightforward strategies you can use whenever you have to work in a group:

Set ground rules

Always do this first. This could be more formal in a ‘group contract’ or through an informal discussion/email agreement. You’ll want to decide on:


  • how often you will meet,
  • how you will maintain regular communication,
  • what roles or tasks each person will complete, and
  • assignment goals and a timeline for completion.

Make sure everyone agrees and understands how the group will work.

If everyone is involved in this planning stage and has their thoughts considered, they are less likely to disengage from the group.

Regular meetings are essential

Try to organise your meetings and their individual goals 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 or a combination with face-to-face meetings will suit all of your group better.
Always record any decisions made, task allocations and assignment progress in every meeting.

Dividing up work

Before you can allocate 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. Sometimes this isn’t always clear at the outset, so you may want to share some earlier tasks (such as initial research) and then divide up later tasks once you have a better idea of what is involved.

Communication

It might seem obvious to mention but all of your group communication should be polite and respectful. Not only is this common etiquette but will also help to maintain good relationships between the group members and potentially avoid problems. Listening to everyone’s thoughts on the assignment and keeping an open mind to suggestions is essential to effective completion. 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.

Managing any problems

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.










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8 October 2015

Study at uni can be fun

It is always worth remembering that your studies can be not only rewarding but also enjoyable. This blog post focuses on the possibilities for fun while actually learning something...by Damian Gleeson, Learning Skills Adviser, Caulfield Library. 




As you approach the end of semester you may find that most of your work is due at the same time. Yikes! Not only that - you may have exams looming and approaching fast. This can be stressful, especially if this is your first time, or if you haven’t done so well in past semesters.

Form a study group

Study at university can be a lonely business. Sure, there are certain tasks like individual essays, reports and presentations that require you to work independently, but that only applies to those tasks. You probably have 12 - 15 people in your tutorial or lab group with whom you definitely have something in common!
Ideally, a study group consists of 4 or 5 members, though this is flexible. Something like a DISC questionnaire can be a useful tool for determining the personality and approach to work of your group’s members. This can help you to identify the variety of strengths and areas that need work among your team mates. Once you’ve worked all this out, you may find something like this:
  • Student A is quiet, but takes meticulous lecture notes. Student A is a useful resource for the group for this reason. He’s a top record-keeper of key lecture content.
  • Student B is talkative and energetic. She is great at remembering conversations and important insights from your tutor. She’s both likeable and a natural leader. Combined with Student A’s lecture notes, you have the lecture and tute materials covered.
  • Student C’s strength is research and reading. He got a HD for the first assignment and your tutor singled out his excellent research, citing and referencing skills. Someone with this much attention to detail is a great resource to ensure that your group is at its most effective when revising the semester’s content.
  • Student D is also quiet and is not confident about her English language skills. However, she has work experience in the field you are studying, which allows her to clearly see and explain why the unit’s content is relevant to your group’s future professions.
So there is a wide range of personalities, skills and knowledge in your group. Cool! This means any areas that individual members think are weaknesses for them can be overcome by the members who are strong in those areas. It also means your strengths are not just an advantage for you - your team mates can also reap the benefits. That’s a great boost for your confidence. Put it to use reviewing the reading, lecture and tutorial materials. Put it to the test by working on past exam questions together.

Revision - turn a boring chore into an enjoyable endeavour

If this describes you and the way you like to work (left), take advantage of it (right). Your learning style is yours and no one else’s, so why not take advantage of it?
  • I like setting and meeting goals    -     Use a to-do list.
  • I work best against the clock  -      Try the Pomodoro technique.
  • I like to draw or doodle  -    Use mind maps to outline how to solve a problem.
  • I like music  -   Write songs about important information that you need to remember. More here.
  • I’m a night owl. I enjoy staying up late   -  Study when you are most alert and do mundane tasks when you are least alert.
  • Solve questions from the textbook   -  A no-brainer
  • If there are few questions, turn chapter titles into questions then practise answering them  - Requires thought.  See example below:

Possible questions

What issues arise for managers in a global environment?

What is social responsibility and how do managerial ethics apply to it?

How are change and innovation best managed?

Why and how do managers motivate employees?

If you remain uncertain about how to be efficient and take joy in your academic work, don’t forget a friendly Librarian or Learning Skills Adviser is available to speak with you at a drop in.

Read More

15 September 2015

5 strategies to manage your group assignment

Nearly every unit requires some type of group project or assignment and it can be challenging, no matter how many times you've done it. If you missed this article written by Sebastian Borutta, one of our Learning Skills Advisers, we are publishing it again to give you practical strategies to manage the challenges of working in a group.


Do you dread working on a group assignment?  Are you sick of group members dropping off the radar, and having to carry the group across the line? 

Research into attitudes towards group work among undergraduate students would suggest that you are not alone.  One study revealed that more than half of undergraduate students surveyed had a negative attitude towards group work, with around 40% stating that they would rather work alone[i].

According to the study, the most significant factors that contributed towards negative attitudes were difficulty coordinating schedules and “free riders” in the group, followed by members not contributing equally and differing grade expectations[ii].

Why have group assignments at all?

Unsurprisingly, the ability to work in a group is an increasingly important skill required by employers; therefore, students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers.[i]  Consequently, as a student it is useful to develop strategies to effectively work in a group setting.

So how can we try to manage these challenges?

The following five-part plan will offer prompts to consider when you embark on your next group task.


1.  Group formation and expectations
  • If given the choice, select group members who you can work with effectively. Friends are not necessarily the best option.
  • Develop ground rules to guide your group’s behaviour and activities.
  • Assign roles based on members’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Ensure that all members are involved in initial planning discussions. Members who feel that their voice is heard during these discussions are less likely to disengage from the group.
  • Ensure members have compatible availability, or options to maintain regular contact with the group.
  • Set goals such as grade expectations early, and together as a group.
2.  Scheduling and meetings
  • Organise regular meeting times from the beginning of the task, including expected outcomes for each meeting.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face VS online meetings when deciding on meeting format.
  • Record decisions made, and the allocation and progress of tasks.
3.  Division of work
  • Before dividing work, ensure that the group has a clear understanding of the task, and all the associated work involved in the task’s completion.
  • Determine an equitable method of dividing work.
  • If this is difficult or not immediately obvious, share initial tasks and then divide the workload. For example, share the initial research stage of a task and then divide up the written component once you have a better idea of task expectations.
4. Communication
  • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other.
  • Ensure team members listen carefully, and with an open mind to each other’s suggestions.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communication when engaging with the group
  • When giving feedback, also focus on positive aspects rather than only negative aspects.
  • Don’t take constructive feedback personally.
5. Dealing with conflict
  • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other. 
  • Problems usually arise due to group dynamics or task progression.
  • If conflict arises, as a group, clearly identify the problem.
  • Consider solutions to address the problem, allowing specific and constructive discussion.
  • Focus discussion on ideas rather than individuals.
  • As a group, make necessary changes and revise initial plans. 
Group work can be challenging and rewarding, both in an educational setting and in the workplace. Through planning and by anticipating and managing potential challenges, you can help your group work experience be a more positive one.

For more information on group work, or any other aspects of your approach to learning, take a look at the Library’s online resources, meet with a learning skills adviser at a drop-in session, or attend a workshop.



[i] Gottschall, H. & Garcia-Bayonas, M. (2008). Student attitudes towards group work among undergraduates in Business Administration, Education and Mathematics. Educational Research Quarterly, 32(1), 2-28.
[ii] ibid
[iii) Hansen R. (2006) Benefits and problems with student teams: Suggestions for improving team projects. The Journal of Education for Business, 82(1), 9-11.



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27 April 2015

5 strategies to manage your group assignment

Practical strategies to manage the challenges of working in a group can spell success for your next group project or assignment... by Sebastian Borutta


http://pixabay.com/en/startup-meeting-brainstorming-594091/
Do you dread working on a group assignment?  Are you sick of group members dropping off the radar, and having to carry the group across the line?  Research into attitudes towards group work among undergraduate students would suggest that you are not alone.  One study revealed that more than half of undergraduate students surveyed had a negative attitude towards group work, with around 40% stating that they would rather work alone[i].
According to the study, the most significant factors that contributed towards negative attitudes were difficulty coordinating schedules and “free riders” in the group, followed by members not contributing equally and differing grade expectations[ii].


Why have group assignments at all?

Unsurprisingly, the ability to work in a group is an increasingly important skill required by employers; therefore, students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers.[i]  Consequently, as a student it is useful to develop strategies to effectively work in a group setting. 


So how can we try to manage these challenges?

The following five-part plan will offer prompts to consider for when you embark on your next group task.
1.  Group formation and expectations
  • If given the choice, select group members who you can work with effectively. Friends are not necessarily the best option.
  • Develop ground rules to guide your group’s behaviour and activities.
  • Assign roles based on members’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Ensure that all members are involved in initial planning discussions. Members who feel that their voice is heard during these discussions are less likely to disengage from the group.
  • Ensure members have compatible availability, or options to maintain regular contact with the group.
  • Set goals such as grade expectations early, and together as a group.
2.  Scheduling and meetings
  • Organise regular meeting times from the beginning of the task, including expected outcomes for each meeting.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face VS online meetings when deciding on meeting format.
  • Record decisions made, and the allocation and progress of tasks.
3.  Division of work
  • Before dividing work, ensure that the group has a clear understanding of the task, and all the associated work involved in the task’s completion.
  • Determine an equitable method of dividing work.
  • If this is difficult or not immediately obvious, share initial tasks and then divide the workload. For example, share the initial research stage of a task and then divide up the written component once you have a better idea of task expectations.
4.  Communication
  • Be polite and respectful when communicating with each other.
  • Ensure team members listen carefully, and with an open mind to each other’s suggestions.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communication when engaging with the group.
  • When giving feedback, also focus on positive aspects rather than only negative aspects.
  • Don’t take constructive feedback personally.
5.  Dealing with conflict
  • Problems usually arise due to group dynamics or task progression.
  • If conflict arises, as a group, clearly identify the problem.
  • Consider solutions to address the problem, allowing specific and constructive discussion.
  • Focus discussion on ideas rather than individuals.
  • As a group, make necessary changes and revise initial plans.
Group work can be challenging and rewarding, both in an educational setting and in the workplace. Through planning and by anticipating and managing potential challenges, you can help your group work experience be a more positive one.

For more information on group work, or any other aspects of your approach to learning, take a look at the Library’s online resources, meet with a learning skills adviser at a drop-in session, or attend a workshop.





[i] Gottschall, H. & Garcia-Bayonas, M. (2008). Student attitudes towards group work among undergraduates in Business Administration, Education and Mathematics. Educational Research Quarterly, 32(1), 2-28.
[ii] ibid
[iii) Hansen R. (2006) Benefits and problems with student teams: Suggestions for improving team projects. The Journal of Education for Business, 82(1), 9-11.


 

 





















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