In this section you'll find tips and links to resources to help you work through the assignment.
When working in groups, meetings are an essential part of the groupwork process as it is the only time a team when all of the members are together. It is the only time when members can get
- get direction and help from others
- share information and resources
- make difficult and important decisions
- coordinate tasks and responsibilities
To work successfully as a team, each group member must learn how to identify each others strengths and weaknesses, work with different personalities and work methodologies and work together as a team to achieve common goals and group targets.
Ineffective meetings have some or all of these characteristics:
- There's no agenda or meeting notes
- People are absent
- Things don't get completed
- Start & finish times are ignored
- Time wasting is not prevented
- People concentrate only on their pet subject
- The facilitator or individuals dominate & participation is limited
- Facilities are inadequate / breaks are needed
- Decisions & actions get lost through bad follow-up
Effective meetings have these characteristics:
- Each meeting the facilitator -
- restates the purpose / agenda / end time / expectations
- creates immediate focus
- keeps discipline & to the agenda
- ensures decisions & conclusions are understood & agreed
- Time keeper- keeps an effective pace
- Recorder- keeps records of the meetings
- Team Players - Actively supports the other roles and contribute to the discussion
Meeting record sheet
It is important to keep notes during each meeting to have a record of delegated tasks, deadlines and goals throughout the project. You may have downloaded the meeting record sheet (PDF) before. If you didn't do so now. You'll need a copy for each meeting.
Thinking about marks
Now's the time to think about group assessment. Any problems or confusions are best resolved before you start. If you're in doubt talk to your lecturer.
Before you start you should understand:
- the criteria for marking both the group product and the group process.
- how individual contributions to the group will be measured.
- how grades will be allocated between individuals in the group.
While it's easy to see how marks are decided for the group's product (say a report), the rationale for marks awarded for group processes can be less clear. For this reason lecturers often use one or a mix of the following methods to assess who contributed what to the group process:
- Diaries of meetings, work plans and other statements of contribution
- Peer and self assessment online (You will need to be registered to use SPARK to view this information, but you can access a SPARK demo and a sample spreadsheet which will explain how SPARK works).
- Reflective task
- A combination of group and individual activities.
Group design of assignment & assessment
In some cases students have the task of deciding major aspects of the group assignment, such as:
- The aims and objectives.
- How each of these will be assessed.
- How the group assignment enables you to meet the subject and course objectives.
- How the relative contribution of individuals will be assessed. (You will need to be registered to use SPARK to view this information, but you can access a SPARK demo and a sample spreadsheet which will explain how SPARK works).
Taking on this level of group responsibility for assessment is excellent preparation for working in a professional team after you graduate.
It helps if you understand your own and others' roles in the group. You'll need to allocate roles for two purposes:
- To run your meetings and communicate with each other (face-to-face or online)
- To perform and review the assignment tasks
1. Roles for meetings and group communications
Here it makes sense to rotate the roles. Static group roles create unequal status for members and people become entrenched in high status and low status roles.
If you haven't already done it, the Belbin team analysis exercise (PDF) can be a useful tool. Use it as a stimulus to think about and discuss who does what in the group.
Common meeting roles
- Chairs the meeting
- Keeps attention focused on real issues
- Encourages input and participation from all
- Breaks down competitive activity
- Encourages positive attitudes
- Avoids compromise / drive for best solution
- Keeps the meeting on track
- Time keeper
- Keeps the meeting on time
- Keeps records of the meeting
- Team players
- Actively support the other roles and contribute to the discussion
2. Roles for assignment tasks
Sometimes the most efficient way for a group to operate is for people to do what they do best. However, it's important to bear in mind that people may want to extend or improve skills by taking on something which they haven't done before or which they've identified as an area where they need more practice. If you can't agree on how to divide up the roles, the fairest option is to split the popular and unpopular roles. No one should be stuck with a role that no one else wants. Depending on the assignment task, these roles may be needed:
- graph drawer
- data collector
- project manager
- literature reviewer
- compiler of bibliography
- specialist writer (eg of conclusions section)
- multimedia developer
- software/program specialists (if using particular software)
- assignment presenter
Shared assignment roles
These are some roles that should always be shared, even if people take more of the responsibility for different ones.
- Interpreting the assignment.
- Drawing conclusions from the data.
- Deciding what 'school' or philosophy to follow.
- Deciding what commentator/s, writer/s or researcher/s make most sense.
- Choosing the research tools to use.
- Doing background reading.
These tools will help your group work together effectively to complete the assignment task.
Click to find out what each tool does.
This stimulates everyone to think creatively without fear that others will judge.
Six Thinking Hats (PDF)
This is a method of enhancing group thinking (and communicating about thinking). It fosters collaboration, creativity and innovation.
Reflective journal (PDF)
You may have to keep individual reflective journals for assessment. This link shows you some general headings.
Pareto Chart (PDF)
The Pareto chart is a bar chart which shows the relative contribution of a cause to a result. This technique is based on the Pareto principle, which states that a few (20%) of the causes often account for most (80%) of the effect.
Benchmarking is a method of measuring your processes against those of recognised leaders. It helps you to establish priorities and targets.
Cause and effect diagram (PDF)
Cause and effect diagrams show the relationship between an effect (problem, issue, event) and its potential causes.
Consensus Decision Making (PDF)
All members equally participate in a discussion of the pros and cons of the issues. Consensus occurs when all members of the group agree to a particular course of action or decision.
Multi- voting (PDF)
Multi-voting is a way to reach consensus on the most important items from a list. The list could have been generated through a brainstorming exercise.
Basic communication techniques (PDF)
Here are some tips for effective group communications.
Six Thinking Hats (140 KB) is also a communications technique.
This is the most stressful time for the group but if you've planned and communicated well, this is when you reap the benefits.
SOME COMPLETION STRATEGIES
If you've split things up
You've chosen the hardest path here. Putting things back together is tricky. Try these tactics:
- Write a table of contents: go back to the assignment task as given to you. Look at any planning notes your group made. Then make a checklist of what the work should contain in order: this becomes the table of contents.
- Put material together in the order of the table of contents.
- Leave a lot of time to edit. You need to check the following: writing style, (it should be consistent) proportion (Does a minor point get a lot of prominence simply because someone wrote a lot about it? Conversely, is a major point glossed over because its writer was a minimalist?)
- Don't have a weak link. Everyone should understand everything. Try group quizzes to test this. It's particularly important if you are giving a presentation where anyone can be asked questions.
Agree on formatting and fonts
Spell / grammar check
Don't expect one person to edit the entire document; everyone should read and check it.
Print out to proof read and read aloud if necessary; don't proof on screen.
- Make sure the whole group knows what everyone is going to say.
- Have a presenter who starts and finishes the presentation and introduces the speakers.
- Have a practice run.
- Leave time for making improvements after the practice and running through it again if you need to.
- Time the whole presentation. Under time is better than over time.
- Practise answering questions spontaneously. Each person should understand the topic so well that anyone can answer a question about any part.