Group work and international students

Did you know that yesterday the Olympic Torch went out? Shhh, don’t tell anyone. It was quickly relit and then normal service was resumed and the runners carried on. We are very peaceful in Devon and there were very few police officers around the torch causing one policeman to say: “Never have so many been policed by so few”! (Quiz question: what was the original line and who said it? Brits are not allowed to answer.)

I have never posted about group work before but it is a big issue for students at university, especially overseas students. It can be very difficult being put into a group to do a task. Here are just some of the issues you might come up against:

  • you might not understand the task
  • you might not like the other group members
  • you might not be confident about your language skills so you let others take over
  • you might not be confident about your language skills so you avoid doing any work
  • you might not be confident in your team members’ language skills so you take over or keep the work to yourself
  • you might not see the point of group work
  • you might never have done group work before and are not used to it

and this list is just the start!

There are no easy answers to these very difficult questions. One very important thing to bear in mind is that your teachers give you group work because they believe that you learn important skills DURING the group work. They don’t give it to you  because the final product will be better than individual work (although it probably will be) but because they think you will learn skills such as teamwork, negotiating,  sharing, collaborating, leading, compromising as you work. This is why group work is often accompanied by a piece of reflective writing after the task when you think about what you learnt during the task.

If I was forced to give some quick pieces of advice I would say:

  • make sure you understand the task by asking your teacher and agreeing the task objectives with other group members
  • meet regularly (if the task is over a long period of time) and don’t tolerate missed meetings
  • be prepared to compromise but make sure others understand and hear your point of view
  • make sure group members understand their responsibilities
  • talk to a teacher if things start to go wrong

I have often linked to the Learn Higher website but I have never seen their learning resources on Group Work before. Wow. These are excellent. I love the design of the pages and that means that the high quality content is easy to access. These are well worth bookmarking for yourselves or for classroom use. The Learn Higher Group Work resources are here and thanks to Val in Manchester for the tip.