In today’s work culture and dynamic environment educational institutions and organizations require students and employees to work together in groups at certain tolerant and coordinative levels, thus proving “experience of working in group or teams” (Blease, 2006 cited Kelly, and P.2007). The students are asked to work in groups as it allows students to learn interactively. Moreover the researchers report that, regardless of the subject matter; students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats (Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for teaching). There are number of possible reasons why students are asked to work in small groups. Some of them are as follows:
Generating a broad array of possible alternative points of view or solution to a problem
Giving students a chance to work on a project that is too large or complex for an individual
Allowing students with different background to bring their special knowledge, experience , or skills to a project , and to explain their orientation to others
Giving students a chance to teach others
Giving students a structured experience so they can practice kills applicable to professional situations
There are numbers of benefits for students working in groups for short period of time or large projects such as:
Students who have difficulty talking in class may speak in a small group.
More students, overall, have a chance to participate in class.
Talking in groups can help overcome the anonymity and passivity of a large class or a class meeting in a properly designed room.
Students who expect to participate actively prepare for class.
Students get prepared for their professional future.
Our group was formed to complete an assignment on a case study “Merged School Business”. The assignment was to critically analyse the case study and to find out the problems in the merger and then provide recommendations on strategies and practices to management.
The purpose of this report is to reflect my experience on our group assignment. In this report I will discuss my experience in relation to formation of our group, organization of work and how did we manage our group work.
This is the initial stage. This is the time when the group members and the tasks of the group will be decided. Students can form their own groups or either they can be assigned. Our case falls in first category teacher gave us some time to form our group so we selected our group members and formed a group of five. We were familiar to each other faces as we all were class mates; but at that time everyone introduce himself/herself to others. We decided to select a leader to make communication smooth and clear, than we took contact numbers from each other. We also discuss a bit about our group assignment that what needs to be done. Everyone shared their ideas on the project.
Organization of Work
The first challenge faced after group formation was how to organise the work to complete the task on time. At first stage we divided the task in to smaller pieces and assign these parts to each team member. Developing a time line is the best way to complete the task on time, so we decided for each task when it should be completed. Now all team members know who will do what, in what format and by when. We made our Gantt chart like this:
*Analyse case Background reading……..
*Identify All possible Issues
*Highlight three major issues
*Discuss Solutions Write Report
*Finalise report Submit
*Denotes task for meeting
Understanding and Managing Group Processes
In order to perform effectively in a group it is important to understand and manage group processes properly. Some suggestions in this regard are as under:
Group work best if everyone has a chance to make strong contributions to the group project and to the discussion at meetings.
At the beginning of each meeting, decide what you except to have accomplished by the end of meeting.
Select someone from group to write ideas to record all meetings and group’s decisions. Allocate responsibility for group process; in order to do that a group leader can be selected.
Save some time towards the end of the first meeting and periodically as the group continues; to check in with each other on how the process is working.
By following the mentioned group process we proceeded with our group assignment as follows:
Including Everyone and Their Ideas:
We gave a chance to everyone to contribute their ideas about assignment. Our goal was to produce as many ideas as possible. We listened all the ideas carefully and then we mentioned all the ideas sheet so we don’t forget them or they don’t get lost.
By using this approach we improved our group work a lot and did some creative modifications as well.
Group leadership helps to work group more effectively, so we chosen a group leader. The group leadership helped us in number of ways such as:
Group leader was responsible to monitor that the work is organized to get it done. He was also responsible for understanding and managing group interactions to keep the positive atmosphere.
The leader also encouraged every one’s contributions with an eye to accomplish the work. In order to do this, he observed our group work process to check is the group moving quickly, leaving some people behind? Is it time to shift focus to another aspects of the task?
He also encouraged group interactions and maintained a positive atmosphere.
He also anticipated what information, material or other resources the group needs as it works.
He was also responsible for beginning and ending on time. So he planed work accordingly.
Focusing on Direction
After we gathered a large numbers of ideas we categorize and examine them. Then we choose some ideas among all of them. Then we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. We also ask group members to vote for ideas that helped us to eliminate some of them. Moreover based on this voting we rank the ideas in priority order and then finalized them.
Making a Decision
After everyone’s views are heard and all the points of agreement and disagreement are identified, the group tried to arrive at an agreement that makes sense to everyone. Decisions are an important for group. So we were quiet careful in deciding. Our group made all the decisions based on all members’s input.
Here are some problems which we encountered during our group project:
While we were figuring out the work and were trying to decide everyone’s role in the group, the group work got a bit delayed and some work got postponed.
Dominating or Reluctant Participants:
Some of the group members were taking more share of the discussion by talking too often by telling lengthy stories and by not letting others finish. While others were speaking rarely as they were having difficulty to get in the conversation.
Digressions and Tangents:
As some group members were telling many interesting side stories it was acting as an obstacle in group progress and we were lagging behind out timeline.
After giving the case background and highlighting some issues we got stuck at solutions or possible strategic solutions. This problem was moving our group progress down than expected.
In order to improve the group project and get better results we can give some recommendations to mentioned problems such as:
To avoid delays in work at initial level some sentences can really help such as:
Here’s my understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. Do you all agree?
What would help us move forward: data? Resource?
Let’s take a few minutes to hear everyone’s suggestions about how this process might work better and what we should do next.
In order to discourage dominating people humour can be used. For the people who do not speak non verbal actions such as looking at them can be used to include them in discussion. Moreover asking quiet participant about their thoughts outside the group may lead their participation within group.
In order to stick with main theme of discussion, try to summarize where discussion was before digression.
When a group feels that it is not making a progress they should look on the things which are preventing them from progression.
At the end of the project, what matters the most is what we have learned from our group work experiences. During the tenure of working together, situations cropped up and tested us on the scales of making the decisions and handling the pressures and exceptions.
As per Belbin (1993), “Team performance is influenced by the kinds of people making up a group, and testing indicates that certain combinations of personality-types perform more successfully than others” but the key to its implementation is how the team analyzes its performance and then adapts the situation so as the result can be achieved. Team work was definitely one of the most important aspects of our project. We would have been unable to accomplish anything if we had not worked together. Even though the design process was broken up into individual pieces, we often consulted with one another when we ran into difficulties with our work. Team work was definitely one of the most important aspects of this project. We would have been unable to accomplish anything if we had not worked together. Even though the design process was broken up into individual pieces, we often consulted with one another when we ran into difficulties with our work. As a result we managed to achieve a strong outcome thus enhancing our knowledge, competencies and empowering group as a whole.
Ellen Sarkisian, Derek Bok Center., 2007. “Working in Groups” Derek Bok Center for teaching and Learning,Harvard University
J. Sketchley, A. Mejia, I. Aitken et al., Work Improvement in Health Services. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1986
Moon J.(2004), A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning, London, Routledge Falmer