Earlier in the year, Jisc’s R&D team conducted a literature review in order to gain a greater insight into the current student group work experience. Our initial findings illustrated that this is a problem space that has been discussed long before the pandemic emergency however, has become more complicated as a result. With group work being such a core part of the academic process we wanted to help both students and teaching staff get the most out of group work and for the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks. We are keen to further explore problems and opportunities presented by group work assignments, and to also get your perspective on the experience.
The emerging predominance of group work assignments represents a major trend in education, employers highly value teamwork skills and seek the development of these in graduates. However, there has been quite a lot of negativities towards student group work pre-pandemic, and even more so during. Some of the key concerns amongst students stem from dealing with their fellow teammates, particularly when it comes to conflict amongst the workload, fair grading and communicating with different personalities. It comes as no surprise that members of the team clash when having to work alongside that one person who procrastinates, or another team member that dominates the conversation.
We’ve identified this as being a dilemma for both students and staff, as with any situation there are many approaches one could take to solve the situation. Current methods of minimising conflict in group work vary from project management tools to advice for both lecturers and students. Many universities already have guides on how to conduct an effective group assignment, or tips on how handle team dynamics from start to finish. From this we concluded that the core areas to look into are how group assignments are planned, executed and assessed. Our understanding is if the assignments are well designed, groups are well formed, the project is delivered successfully and fairly assessed, it will help make the process more valuable and less painful for both students and staff.
We are currently looking to identify the challenges faced by staff and students to see if there are any opportunities for innovation. Therefore, we are keen to speak with students and academic staff about their experiences.
From students we are interested to find out their experience of doing group work assignments, their attitude around assessment and what tools they use to facilitate the process.
From lecturers we would like to know how group work is designed and planned, how the groups are ‘assembled’, the role they play throughout the assignment and how they go about assessing their students.
We will continue to monitor the student group work experience however, if you are interested in getting involved, have a story to tell or would just like to know more, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.