Group work is a method that includes working in groups to enhance critical, decision-making, collaborative, and communication skills to increase productivity.
Students in their school and college life and individuals in their professional life have to work in groups at one time or another. This practice is encouraged a great deal as it helps the team members to understand the content in a better way so that everyone can benefit from peer-to-peer instructions.
How to Implement group work?
The various steps involved in implementing group work are as follows-
1. Preparing for working in groups
The first step in this process consists in arranging the students in groups.
- Look at the layout of the classroom and then form the groups in the best possible manner so that the students are comfortable and can hear each other.
- While preparing for working in groups, emphasize civil behavior, good conduct, and professional attitude amongst students so that they can respect each other and work in an amicable environment
- Establish ground rules for successful teamwork
2. Designing the group activity
The second step in this process involves designing the group activity.
- This is where you decide what you want to accomplish. The group activity must be in tandem with the instructional objectives to felicitate learning in students. This is the time to ask yourself what is the objective, how can it achieve the desired success, does the activity need working in groups, is it complicated or challenging by nature, and does the task require teamwork?
- If the task is challenging and stimulating, the students will also enjoy working together to get the desired results. The chance of using the combined talent to create something new and unique becomes high through the collaborative exercises.
- Encourage positive feelings amongst the students to felicitate interdependence and involvement. There should be a fair division of labor, and every member should be held accountable for personal and teamwork. It is a fact that cooperative learning motivates team members and boosts productivity and efficiency
- An essential part of this step is deciding on the size of the group. Look at the size of the classroom, the total number of students, the task that has been assigned, and the needs of the task before forming a group. Generally, a team with four to five members is considered perfect, but it can be reduced or increased depending upon the situation
- Students can be given a choice to form the groups by themselves, but an important disadvantage will be that they will choose the members based on their compatibility and friendship and not the needs of the task. The teacher or the instructor might find it useful in some cases to form groups’ themselves so that all the groups can meet the requirements of the task easily. Another way to increase diversity within groups is by assigning students into groups randomly.
- Estimate the time beforehand and provide enough time for the group to complete their tasks. Make a plan to hold a plenary session to look at and discuss the results and general issues that anyone might be facing
- Predict the questions that will be asked during the plenary session and prepare for the answers beforehand
- This is the stage where you need to design collaborative work in various formats like large groups, small groups, and pairs. Some of the students think best on their feet, whereas some need the time to digest the information, and in some cases, some of the students will contribute actively in pairs.
3. Introducing the group activity
The third step in this process involves introducing activities in the groups and letting the students know about the purpose of the group work
- It becomes imperative to share your reason for working in groups with the students to understand the advantages of collaborative learning. Introduce activities and connect them with class themes and learning outcomes for best results
- Always form the groups before giving them instructions to save time
- Encourage the students to introduce themselves to the group members for unity in the group. They will work with a better frame of mind if all the members are comfortable and trust each other.
- Explain the task in a detailed form so that all the groups know what they need to do. Describe the final product you are expecting to set the goals of the task. Prepare visual and oral instructions and include time estimation for all the activities to guide the students for better outcomes
- Set the ground rules at the onset of interactions within the groups, especially for more prolonged activities. Make a group contract and include principles like methods for decision-making, active listening, and respect
- Give the students time to ask questions about the activities
4. Monitoring the group task
The fourth step in this process involves monitoring of the tasks in the groups.
- Monitoring the group work activities is essential but does not hover over the groups and distract them. Circulate and answer questions that are raised. Listen to the emerging trends so that they can be discussed during the plenary session.
- Do not interfere with the functioning of the group because they need to solve the related problems by themselves
- Leave the room for some time so that the students can share their uncertainties effectually
- Express your confidence in the students and let them know that you expect a lot from them and are confident that they will deliver
- Do not be ready to help the students reach their goals. Let them struggle and find their path to accomplish tasks
- Clarify your role as a facilitator at the onset so that the students do not have unreasonable expectations from you
5. Ending the group task
The last step in this process involves finishing the tasks and providing closure to the activities in the group.
- Let the students do group reporting in the plenary session. Encourage the exchange of ideas and let the students know how their work was useful
- Let every group introduce one idea and make sure that it circulates through the groups until there are no new ideas left. Let them give their insights through questions and answers
- Make sure that all the groups are recording their ideas and presenting them to others. Students can circulate and read the answers, or they can move around in groups and add comments in response to others
- Encourage the students to show sensitivity and respect towards each other, value opinions that are different from theirs, and be willing to offer and receive constructive criticism.
- Look for connections between the course topic and group conclusions
- Clarify inaccurate responses and misconceptions
- Leave some room for further research
- Ask students to reflect on the process of working in groups through written or oral reports. It will help discover what they have learned and how they have functioned and contributed to the collaborative group work.
Benefits of group work
The advantages of working in groups are as follows-
- An essential benefit of working in groups is that it boosts performance because a broader range of skills can be applied to the task.
- Working in groups increases the level of efficiency and productivity
- The sharing and discussing of new ideas result in a greater understanding between individuals and results in bonding that will encourage them to have each other’s back at difficult times
- Being part of a skilled team enhances the abilities and know-how of every member.
- Working in a group is beneficial as it develops skills like listening, speaking, and leadership
- Working as part of a group develops decision-making, problem-solving, conflict resolution, negotiation, critical thinking, and communication skills that a person will need throughout his life to grow and prosper
- An essential benefit of working in groups is that it boosts the level of cooperation and helps individuals to identify their strengths and weaknesses
- Working in a group increases self-awareness and helps with the approach to learning
- People tend to remember group discussions, and the information is also retained for a longer time
- Students are encouraged to work in groups in a classroom as it creates active learners.
- An essential benefit of working in groups is that it boosts the level of achievement
- Working in groups nurtures cooperative learning, trust, and support
- Working as part of a group facilitates improvement in interactions and social skills
- An essential benefit of working in groups is that it boosts the level of learning outcomes
- Working in groups results in a shared workload
Disadvantages of group work
The disadvantages of working in groups are as follows-
- There is always the pressure to go with the majority opinion. If someone is not vocal enough, then even if he disagrees, his voice will not be heard. This often results in agreeing to a wrong opinion simply because some members are more dominant than others
- In some cases, the work is distributed unevenly, and the less dominant members of the group find themselves with more work than the ones that are steering the group activities in their desired path
- Coming to a single solution that is agreeable to every member takes time, whereas when an individual is working alone, he does not have to spend time convincing about the solution or the path to take
Group work activities are often encouraged amongst the students and even in professional life as it helps to balance the needs for cohesion, participation, productivity, efficiency, and diversity. Working in groups thus acts as a motivational tool for active learning.