Working collaboratively in teams often brings about a quality of thought and diversity of opinion that is difficult to come by when we work individually. Although group work can present its own challenges, effective group work often encourages members to come up with new ideas and to get projects moving in the right direction.
Stages of group development:
To develop a well-functioning group and to maximize your own learning, it is helpful to know the characteristics of effective groups:
- First, it is important to find common ground with the other members of the group, understand everyone’s expectations, identify conflicts, and work at resolving them.
- Second, early on you need to clarify the different roles and responsibilities for each person in the group. This involves setting up ground rules for the group.
- Third, you need to achieve the outcomes on which the group has agreed.
- Fourth, it is necessary to reflect on what the group has achieved both in terms of product and process.
Source: adapted from Marshall, L. and Rowland, F. (1998) A Guide to Learning Independently. p.165
Every member must have a role within the group and be able to express themselves and act for their own well-being, as well as the well-being of the group. When working in a team, listen to the ideas and opinions of all members.
- Creating a team
- Organizing meetings
- Conducting meetings
- Delegating tasks
- Bringing the content together
- Resolving conflict
1. Creating a team
Choose team members: Choose members according to their qualities and what they can bring to the team. Here are some examples of team-member responsibilities: finances, strategy, marketing, human resources, logistics, and production.
Avoid picking your friends! It’s often a lot harder to confront them if there is a problem.
Choose a leader: It’s important for a team to identify a clear leader. This person is responsible for organizing meetings and speaking on behalf of the team. The group leader does not make decisions for the group and is not responsible for the work!
Choose a communication method: Whether you choose to email, to phone, or to speak in person several times per week, you should all exchange contact information.
Determine the frequency of meetings: Evaluate the total workload and decide on the number and length of meetings.
Choose the location and time of the meetings: Every member must agree on a location and be there on time.
Keep track of deadlines and of everyone’s tasks: In the work world, managers have a variety of software for good project management. Organize your time and priorities with project management software or by using a calendar or agenda.
Participate: It’s important that every member of the team has a say and is free to give his or her opinion. It is also the responsibility of each member to actively participate in all team meetings.
Respect the other members: Respecting the other members of the team involves listening to them and doing the assigned work correctly and on time.
Avoid personal conflicts: Be professional during meetings. Do your student duty!
Resist procrastination: Don’t forget that you and your teammates have work to do. Be efficient during meetings and avoid losing too much time.
Tasks should be assigned according to each member’s strengths.
- Make a plan for each part of the assignment.
- Evaluate the workload and the type of work for each section of the project.
- Distribute tasks equally.
- Never delegate all of the writing to one person.
When bringing everything together, keep in mind that the final document is a product of the whole group.
- Regularly verify the instructions.
- Reread the final draft several times.
- Determine a document format.
- Write transition phrases or paragraphs.
- As a final step, write the introduction and the conclusion as a group.
Here are a few tips to facilitate teamwork and resolve potential conflicts.
- Group members have to communicate and exchange ideas.
- Select a leader everybody agrees on and who can manage the workload.
- Define the rules from the beginning (e.g., What should happen if one of the members doesn't do any work?).
- Respect the timeline set out as a group.
- Decide on common and realistic objectives together.
- Define the roles and responsibilities and make sure everybody understands them.
- Work together in avoiding and resolving conflicts.
- Remain open-minded and focus on the task at hand.
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