Group work

Teamwork is one of Deakin’s graduate learning outcomes. Why? The ability to listen to others, to negotiate and collaborate will help you not only in your studies, but in your career and life in general.

Group assignments

Working in a group provides you with opportunities to gain valuable communication and negotiation skills. It can also be a rewarding experience, a chance to exchange ideas, and work with people who have different backgrounds, skills and experiences. Group assignments can also give you a sense of what it is like to manage a small project – skills that are highly valued in the workplace.

In your unit you may be asked to:

  • develop a class presentation
  • start a class or group discussion on a given topic or question
  • participate in an activity together such as fieldwork, experiment etc.
  • contribute to a group reflection
  • co-create, design or build something.

When completing group tasks you will have the opportunity to develop in these skills areas:

  • planning in a small group
  • complex time management
  • taking on different and/or multiple roles 
  • negotiation, compromise and problem solving
  • the ability to reflect on and share experiences in order to make future improvements.

Working as a team

The first time you meet your team, get to know each other a little and make a timeline so you know what each person can do.

– Barkha Aghicha, Senior Student Writing Mentor

When placed in a group to complete a task, you may get the opportunity to meet students you may not normally socialise with, for example, students from interstate or overseas, or students with different backgrounds or interests. If you have not previously met the other members of the group, spend some time getting to know each other to work out what skills and experiences you can each bring to the group. Successful group work occurs when members work collaboratively to: 

  • focus on the task
  • work to team objectives
  • communicate regularly
  • meet deadlines.

In this video, Deakin student mentors talk about their experiences participating in group assignments. They also provide a few tips for collaborating successfully with others in a team.

Tips for successful group work

For you and your team to get the most of your experience, remember to:

  • get to know your team members and establish roles early
  • elect a team leader
  • create clear goals and set timelines
  • decide on a mode of communication
  • set up regular meetings
  • communicate openly and contribute ideas
  • respect your team members unique talents and ways of learning.

Download the Teamwork checklist PDF on this page to help you with your next group assignment.

A learning experience

If you run into problems, try to work it out with your team mates but don't be afraid to contact a tutor or lecturer for assistance.

– Gypsy O'Dea, Writing Mentor

Strategies for success

Teams who do not work cooperatively or collaboratively together are likely to produce work that is disjointed, inconsistent and underdeveloped. When problems arise, it will depend on the group members to resolve them. You may need to negotiate and compromise within your team – and if you do, you will also be developing valuable negotiation skills. It is important to identify factors that may be preventing your team from working well together and develop a strategy to deal with it.

ProblemSuggested strategy
A team member is not contributingSome people may find certain tasks challenging, a good place to start is by identifying what might be causing the problem.  Some people are very shy and need positive encouragement. Think about their strengths and give them different tasks they might be able to carry out or pair them with someone who may be able to provide support.
There is conflict within the teamTeam members will bring different perspectives to the research you carry out, so it is important to ensure that people feel comfortable raising alternative viewpoints. Diversity helps to make a team strong and flexible. It is important to share information about the way you prefer to work or any commitments you have which may prevent you from attending meetings.
A team member is dominatingIf some team members talk too much, suggest setting time limits in order to give each member a chance to speak.

Reflection

To continue to build your teamwork skills, it is a good idea to reflect on your own and your team's performance at the end of each assessment and to think about what you would do differently next time. Ask yourself:

  • How were decisions made?
  • How did you share information?
  • How did you give feedback?
  • What did you enjoy / gain from about the experience?
  • Did all team members feel the task was successful?
  • What was the most difficult obstacle to achieving your task?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Collaborating online

Settle on the best mode of communication early.

– Storm Logan, Maths Mentor

Deakin provides all students with access to collaboration tools such as Skype for Business, OneDrive and Office 365. This can make it easy for groups  to collaborate on documents and communicate, but first check that everyone is comfortable using these tools.

Once you download Skype for Business from the Deakin Software Library, you can easily set up a video meeting via your Deakin email calendar and invite other students to join. You can then share your screen and any documents to discuss your task.

OneDrive is your personal cloud storage where you are able to share documents or other files such as a presentation or spreadsheet with other students. You can give team members permission to edit and make comments on the one document in one place.

Office 365 is the online version of popular Microsoft programs, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can access these programs a variety of devices, without downloading software.

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