Help for students

If you have come across this website through a search engine you are probably looking for help on a particular aspect of working as a group. Before creating this resource we talked to students about the issues and challenges they were facing and incorporated many of these scenarios into the episodes. Here are the most commonly raised comments and concerns with suggestions about where to look within the resource if you are facing similar challenges (unless otherwise stated the referenced video clip can be accessed from the first screen of the episode).

Why do I have to work in a group, I'd rather do it on my own? Group work is becoming an integral part of many higher education programmes, designed to help you gain the skills needed to be effective in the work place. Rob asked a similar question in Episode 4, Managing conflict; take a look at his reflective diary on the analysis page (2nd page) of this episode.

We had our first meeting today, however no serious conversations were had, we were distracted by other topics. Staying on track is difficult; during several of the episodes individual members of the group 'call order' and actively encourage the group to return to the topic in hand. Shireen, for instance has the confidence to interrupt and forcefully restore order (see the video clip for Episode 1) although in Episode 4 she interrupts what she considers to be a trivial conversation and is challenged by Vikki.

It's hard getting all the group members together. In Episode 1 the group decide where and how often they are going to meet. By agreeing a schedule of meetings in advance the group can make long-term commitments, however it's important to have a degree of flexibility. It may not always be possible for everyone to make a meeting; have a contingency plan and make arrangements for work to be sent to another group member if someone can't attend. Without this, non-attendance can lead to conflict as it does when Vikki fails to turn up in Episode 7.

When I did my bit I was worried about others thinking I didn't know as much as them. Having the confidence to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses is an important personal skill. Rather than set yourself up as an expert, encourage shared discussions and ideas. Discussion plays an important part in all the episodes but is highlighted in Episode 3.

If one person doesn't commit and produces work of a poor standard they can drag the whole group mark down. The fairness of group assessment is an issue that concerns most group members. To minimise issues regarding commitment, keep tasks between meetings short and specific so you don't become reliant on individuals. If someone refuses to contribute then reallocate the work and make sure you articulate your frustrations in a reflective journal. Vikki's commitment is questioned in Episode 7. Her response to this can be found in the video clip on the 2nd page of the episode.

You need to make sure everyone is going in the right direction with the same goals at the end. Good communication is vital in a group-work situation; unless the group discuss the objectives and how they are going to meet them, confusion and misunderstandings are the likely outcome. In Episode 3, the students realise that they have jumped in without any real planning. Delia manages the situation calmly and is able to make them see that they need to take a step back.

If you are put with friends it can be hard to be critical, it can be a strain on the friendship. Learning how to offer constructive criticism and positive feedback is a skill that helps maintain friendships and develop good working relationships. Within this group there were no initial friendships however relationships do develop as the weeks progress. Following the presentation rehearsal in Episode 9, the group gather to give feedback. The process shows them the the importance of giving constructive feedback rather than simply providing negative comments.

I worry about feeling nervous and letting everyone down. Practice until you are word perfect and then you can dispense with the notes. Episode 6 looks in detail at how to give a good presentation, including handling nerves. Within this group Delia has particular issues with nerves and Episode 9 (2nd screen, analysis video clip) shows how her peers helped her to deal with this. Her reflective diary in Episode 10 gives her personal thoughts on coping with the stresses of presenting.

Pulling it altogether at the end takes ages, we kept saying we ought to organise a meeting but no-one could be bothered until the week before. Someone usually has to make the first move to pull everything together - work to your strengths and and acknowledge different team roles. This group define roles fairly early on (see Episode 2) but then repeatedly return to the issue of whether or not they need a team leader 'to pull it all together' (see Episode 5). By Episode 6 they have reconciled their differences and look at working as a team to pull together the elements of the presentation. To ensure that they are on track they arrange a rehearsal session (Episode 9) to make sure that they are all ready for the final presentation.

How can the tutor really tell who has done all the work? I wasn't really impressed because Jo didn't show the same commitment but she got the same mark. The tutor often has little involvement with the project as this group found in Episode 5. This lack of exposure to individual commitment is often compensated for by the use of several methods of assessment, including peer assessment. The methods of assessing group work do differ and they can cause concern within groups where there is an uneven spread of effort. Episode 8 concentrates on the issues surrounding assessment. The group discusses their concerns within the weekly meeting and then, in the analysis video clips, each give their individual views.

If your questions have still not been answered take a look at the range of additional resources available from the second page of each episode. The resources are designed to reinforce aspects of the episode and to look at more specific issues and challenges.