The Brighter Side of Group Work

Written by: Billie Clark

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here yet, but if you’ve talked to me in person at any point in the last two weeks, I’m sure I’ve mentioned group work.

I like discussing things with other people, I like sharing and learning opinions and thoughts and theories. Studying with other people, and having someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off, are things I find helpful. I really enjoyed seminars throughout my undergrad in English Lit because it gave me the opportunity to do this.

Group work, however, is not something I’ve had occasion to do in university.  English Lit and Philosophy and History courses don’t really call for group work at a university level, which I was eternally grateful for. Sure, I’ve had to work in groups to present scenes from Shakespeare, but I’ve always enjoyed theatre, so I don’t consider it to be “group work”. For me, “group work” are the projects I tried my best to avoid having to do during high school: I would try to get permission to work alone, or if it was our choice to work as a group or an individual, I would choose to complete the assignment as an individual.

So here I am, in five Business classes, earning a Business certificate, and doing group work in four of my classes. And because I spent so long thinking “Ugh, group work,” it has become a bit of a knee-jerk response for me to focus on the negatives of it: the frustrations of having to rely on other people to complete an assignment, the uncertainty of how their way of working and their efforts interact with my own, and my worries about whether everyone is doing what needs to be done. Because of my focus on this, I tend to forget about all the positive aspects of group work; and this blog is meant to remind me of the good things about group work.

  1. People Think Differently

While this seems obvious, it’s also easy to forget. Group work allows you to experience the fact that not everyone thinks the same way as you—and how you react to that. It is a neat experience, and helps you to become more self-aware.

  1. Time Management is Important

Eventually, everyone learns the minimum time they require to produce satisfactory work, and how long different assignments take. With group work, you need to learn how to manage your time in relation to others’ needs. And you’ll want to make sure everything is done well before it’s due—otherwise it becomes a stressful scramble.

  1. Not Everyone is a Self-Starter

If you’ve ever had a group project, you’ll know that not everyone is equally motivated. Sometimes, groups have lots of members who have similar goals where effort and achievement are concerned, but that’s pretty unlikely. Working in groups with people who are motivated by different means than yourself (wanting certain grades, comments, or completion deadlines) allows you to learn how to compromise and organise. Assigning tasks, monitoring completion, maintaining deadlines—when completing group work, you might find that some groups quickly sub-divide, while others tend towards a less autonomous formation. Both are fine, as long as they stay within the realm of integrity and requirements. Everyone can contribute something, no matter the subject; experiment with group practices and find what works best for you! When confronted with group work, it’s important to remember that all the challenges are opportunities to learn and improve!

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