Working in groups

Learn how to build successful collaborative relationships and overcome the challenges of working in a group.

Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini 

My success is not individual success but collective success of the group

Key steps to good group work

  • Get to know your group members.
  • Establish some ground rules.
  • Understand the task.
  • Define your roles.
  • Establish group goals early. 
  • Plan the work, e.g., structure meetings, share out tasks, create a timetable of work and deadlines.
  • Follow academic integrity principles. 
  • Check your progress at regular intervals.
  • Address any problems.
  • Help everyone pull their weight.
  • Complete the task on time.
  • Evaluate your experience.

Here is a resource to help you:

Guidelines to working in a group

Respect the ideas of others

  • Show respect to each other and respect other’s ideas.
  • Everyone’s opinion counts so try not to interrupt.
  • Be honest.
  • Agree on a common goal.

Contribute equally

  • Share responsibility for achieving tasks.
  • Do not take over and do not let others take over.

Be open-minded

  • Co-operate with others on their ideas.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Vote on disagreements.

Communicate effectively

  • Let everyone speak.
  • Contribute ideas no matter how “off” you may think they are.
  • Listen and give constructive feedback.

Manage your time effectively

  • Arrive on time to meetings.
  • Be flexible about meeting times.
  • Keep on task (limit talking about non-related events).
  • Set an agenda.

Cultural awareness

  • Be culturally sensitive.
  • Be aware of cultural boundaries.

How to overcome group work challenges

Choose the right workspace

A good workspace can help in making group work more productive. To make sure you choose the right workspace:

  • Choose a room of appropriate size. You may require a room with technology.
  • Book spaces in advance.

Communicating effectively

Poor communication can be an issue when working in a group. Students may interrupt or talk over each other. To improve communication for group work you could:

  • Use the think, pair, share technique to make sure sufficient time is spent on thinking before speaking.
  • Let group members choose their own role in the group.
  • Ensure all team members have a chance to speak.
  • Allow time for questions and clarification.

Dealing with dominating group members

Some group members can dominate conversations. Some things you can do to make sure all group members get an equal chance to speak are:

  • Assign specific roles to group members.
  • Set a time limit on how long each member can speak.
  • Assign a facilitator and clarify that their role includes making sure everyone has a chance to speak.

Accountability for work

Not all group members will contribute to group tasks equally. This is a very common issue and must be addressed as soon as possible. Some things you could do to deal with this issue are:

  • Use peer evaluation.
  • Assign specific roles to each of you in the group to structure your roles and participation.
  • Use a team contract to establish roles and expectations.

Here is a resource to help you:


How to manage conflict

Issues can arise when people collaborate on projects. Some things you can do to minimise conflict when teams work collaboratively are:

  • Get to know the different personalities of group members.
  • Use a team charter, ground rules or other tools to outline how the group will collaborate before starting work.
  • Consider reassigning roles and tasks if there is too much conflict.

Tools to collaborate in groups

There are tools available to help manage your group work project – from tools that help to create a project timeline to those that help facilitate communication and document sharing.

  • You can use Google docs and log in to your University Google account to create, share and work collaboratively on documents.
  • You can use MS Word and log in to your University MS Office account to create, share and work collaboratively on documents. 
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