School is changing. As with most elements of our society, it is evolving with the times.
Business managers today are expressing that they need to work more with people, particularly those new to the workforce in group settings. This can be more like a study group, a team meeting around a shared goal. It may be different from the classroom where an instructor is overseeing the process; it may be more like a task-focused meeting of people centered on an accomplishment.
Study groups can take many forms. In school settings they can be based on understanding elements of the curriculum or working on a project. Similarly in business, they can be co-workers coming together to complete an objective. Regardless, there are some key characteristics that can make a study group effective.
Here are some tips, especially useful if you are the one establishing the group:
Identify Your Goal
When everyone in the study group is focused on the same objective, you can proceed. Sometimes participants are part of the group because it is a job requirement, or in the case of a school study group, students may think being part of the group will just help them with their grades, or socially through association, or participation will look good on a transcript. Regardless, make sure everyone in the group is clear about why they are there. With similar goals established you could agree on meeting times, a schedule for the work to be done, and ensure equal participation.
Understand and choose the participants
Choosing the people to be part of your study group is quite different from choosing your friends. In fact, consider choosing people who might someday have the connections, career path, power and even money you want. Choose people for the long path. Your teammates may become long-time associates, colleagues and even friends just from your initial work together in a study group.
Know your strengths
Ideally your study group will be a mix of a variety of skills and strength. It would be great to include someone who is analytical, someone methodical, another with strong social strengths and another with talents that can enhance the group in another way. If group members are too alike they could get stuck with aspects of the task that might require skills such as artistic abilities or presentation. Recognize the strengths of the members and let them shine with these abilities. If someone early one really isn’t jiving with the group, try to find them another more suitable group before continuing too long with “dead weight”.
Decide on the process
Carefully review the assignment with the members to get a firm grip on what is required. Hopefully you will also be aware of how it will be assessed. Develop a plan together that will include clear expectations for each participant and a schedule for not just when the meetings will be but what will make up the meetings themselves. Keep the tine positive and supportive, and agree to avoid blame or judgements. Discuss how you will deal with shortcomings or problems that will arise from the work. Decide how you will deal with participants who don’t do the work or show up. Lay a reasonable framework for all to agree upon before getting started.
Help Each Other
The basic premise of group work is to help each other. Use the strengths of the individuals to divide up some of the tasks, and also to let the person with that strength bring the others in the group up to speed. For example, if one member is in charge of the Powerpoint presentation part of the task, let that expert use their skills to build the presentation, but have the other members provide the content. Tutor each other and learn from each other as the work unfolds. Establish an expectation for each meeting time that each “expert” will get the others up to speed on their aspect of the assignment. If there is not “expert” in the group for a particular part of the task, take turns with it, or divide up the job and then offer support. For example, in the workplace, if the task is something like developing new sales material, help each other out with collecting images if no one is a whiz at this. Let everyone source material in separate ways and then as a group make choices from the collection.
Learn all you can
In school related study groups, it can become the nature of the task that one person presents their findings and then each member copies it down. Ideally you want to learn from every step of the group assignment. Learn material yourself with the other group members as your teachers. Helping the other group members too makes you learn it better too. Before the group dismantles, make sure you have all become more educated about the topic of task. Keep track of their contributions.
Consider the times when group work as a student or in the workplace was ideal! Recall when it was fulfilling, memorable and maybe even rewarding. But also think about instances when it was awkward, unfulfilling and you perhaps you couldn’t wait until it was over. Use these recollections. For some, group work can be a favourite way to work on assignments. We are becoming more aware that employers want students to learn more about working with others as part of their educational process.
Check out a related article on the topic: 8 Tips to Organize Group Work in the Classroom