Working in groups can be a great enrichment and has many advantages. The academic results of group work are often better because you will get the opportunity to discuss the subject matter from multiple perspectives and angles.
The benefits of working in a group:
- Resources: Being multiple people naturally adds more resources to the group, which can lead to deeper and more thorough work
- Motivation: Working in groups can be a motivational factor, as it adds sparring, discussions and social aspects to the academic work
- Obligation: In a group, you have responsibilities towards your group, which can help you meet your obligations and deadlines
- Collaboration skills: When you work in groups, your develop your collaboration skills, which can be an important asses in your future career
- Articulate your knowledge: In group work, you need to be able to articulate your knowledge and point of view to the other groups members. This is a great way to train for e.g. an exam situation
You can read more about groups and study technique in these books:
- 'Studieteknik - eller kunsten at studere', Thomas Harboe & Jakob Ravn
- 'Metode i projektarbejde - problemorientering og gruppearbejde', Helle Algreen-Ussing & Niels O. Fruensgaard
At the IT University, groups can be formed in different ways. Sometimes you are put into predefined groups by your professor, while at other times you will create your own groups. When forming your own group, it is important to look at how you can form a group in which the individual group members bring complementary skills to the group.
No matter how your group has been formed, it is important to get a good and solid start, as it will strengthen your further group process.
Group agreement and expectations
An essential part of group work is to have a clear matching of expectations, to create a common ground for the group work. Start by clarifying your individual expectations and discuss the scope of your group work. Make sure everyone agrees and consider writing a group contract as a way to formalise your agreements.
Discuss the following for your group work:
- Agree on your ambitions! What are your individual ambitions and what are your expectations of the group work?
- How often are you going to meet?
- Where and how do you meet?
- How do you want to work? Do you prepare individually?
- What is the purpose? What do you want to get from the group work?
- Is it important that you do social things in your group?
- Is it okay to be late? What do you do if you are late? Or sick?
It can be helpful to formalise group norms and expectations through a group constitution from the very beginning of your group work. The constitution should contain the overall goals of the group work, as well as define the group in terms of academic, process and social norms.
- Download a template for a group constitution in WORD or PDF
There are different types of groups. Some groups work with a larger project, while other groups meet just to discuss theory and texts. The purpose of the group work depends largely on the type of group you are working in. Four types of groups (click for full-size image):
Handling group conflicts
Just as there are many benefits from working in groups, there are also a number of challenges, which may lead to conflicts. But not all conflicts in a group are bad.
You can think of conflicts in terms of academic conflicts or in terms of personal conflicts. Academic conflicts can be a constructive way to develop a deeper understanding or to discuss theoretical or methodological differences. Actually, you should not be afraid to go into academic discussion, but make sure you are constructive and argue on a professional level.
In a group, you are working with people who are different from you, and this can result in personal conflicts due to differences in ambitions, values or experiences. Most conflicts can be solved with the right tools.
Clear agreements as a tool for handling conflicts
Conflicts often emerge due to colliding expectations or miscommunication, when someone in the group does not feel included or recognised.
It is important to have clear agreements from the beginning of the project work, as you will be abe to use them as a common ground for discussing yoru conflicts - what did you actually agree on from the beginning?
Problems can often be solved by checking whether the conditions for your cooperation are comprehensive and updated.
If you are experiencing a conflict in your group, discuss the following:
- Group Expectations and Agreement - is the conflict rooted in different ideas and expectations?
- Academic or personal conflict? - does the conflict stem from academic or personal differences?
- Evaluate your current work patterns - are there any problems in your current work environment
- Open and honest discussion - take turns to say out loud what your individual experiences of the group work are. Do not interrupt
- Be constructive! - how can you improve your current situation and move on from the conflict?
Book a groups session with a student advisor
If you cannot solve your conflict within your group, consider booking a session with a student advisor. We offer group sessions where we frame a constructive dialogue to help you get through your problems.
Contact the Study and Career Guidance