The purpose of groupwork: the process not the product!

I was chatting to some international students recently about what it was like for them to study in the UK. They were from China and the Middle East and they were telling me that they struggled with groupwork. They were very disappointed with the low marks they got. They thought that had done what their teachers wanted them to do and they just didn’t understand why they didn’t get good marks. I looked at their assignments and I saw that they had done a lot of work on the factual part of the assignment, and very little on the REFLECTIVE part of the assignment.

You need to know that in the UK and other English speaking countries that your teachers generally believe that:

  • you learn more when you work in a group than you do when you work on your own
  • you learn very important teamwork skills when you work in a group which you can’t learn just by reading about them
  • the most important part of learning takes place during the groupwork (during the arguing, negotiating, thinking, planning) not when you work on your own

But most of all what these international students had failed to appreciate was that in groupwork:


By this I mean that we, the teachers, are interested in the skills you have improved, the subject knowledge you have extended through the process of discussion with your group members and how you would do the group task differently if you did it again. It can be difficult to show this in your assignment, but if you are asked to do a piece of REFLECTIVE WRITING I’d point you to my article here about it.

My other link is for students who are right in the middle of the groupwork process. You need to negotiate with other students, listen to each other, ask for and give opinions and you need all the English language to do this. This link at Using English for Academic Purposes is excellent to help you with the language you need for groupwork. It’s here.