Group Work!

Keep Reading!!! – I know…, all you have to do is say “group work” and you’ll see every student’s eyes glaze over, and you’ll hear a lot of moaning.  There are many reasons for this (and this is the short list):

  • Floundering – Students think the work develops too slow, and they don’t know their role
  • Dominating Students – The student who takes over and makes all the decisions
  • Reluctant Students – Students who don’t do anything and make everyone else work harder
  • Tangents – So many side conversations that nothing gets done
  • Feuds – Conflicts in the group

But group work is important.  It’s how we work in the “real world.”  Giving your students the skills to navigate the pitfalls of group work will make them better students, and better citizens once they graduate.

To start to break down the barriers, we first need to recognize the five stages of group work, which are:

  1. Forming,
  2. Storming,
  3. Norming,
  4. Performing, and
  5. Adjourning.



Once a student knows that these steps are a normal part of group work, they can move forward through the process, while working through the difficult first steps.  As a teacher, you will be moderating these teams of students, and helping them navigate the process, which might include:

  • Setting clear goals. Why are they working together? What are they expected to accomplish?
  • Ways to break down the task into smaller units
  • Ways to allocate responsibility for different aspects of the work
  • Ways to allocate organizational responsibility
  • A sample time line with suggested check points for stages of work to be completed

When looking for information ranging from “why to use a team project,” to “wrapping the team project up,” (and everything in between), a good resource to reference is the Faculty Guide from the University of Minnesota.  This guide will give you information on every aspect of group work including tips for success and how to assess the project.

Picture of a group around a table

Click on the picture above, or this link to access the Faculty Guide to Team Projects:

Thank you for looking at another Faculty Learning Corner post.  Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again next Friday!