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Every time you work in groups, you need to have a specific goal to achieve or a task to perform. Your task is likely to vary at different stages of the learning process.

  • You might be attempting to clarify new information.
  • Your group might be completing a task. Often you will be expected to present the results to another audience, possibly a sharing group or the whole class.
  • Your task might be to reflect on what you have learnt. You may also be asked to discuss how effectively you have worked and how you can improve.

The following points should help your group to operate more effectively.

  • Develop a set of rules to guide you. Do you need to assign specific roles (a group leader, a recorder, a spokesperson) or is this not necessary for the kind of work you will be doing?
  • Gain experience. The more you work in groups, the better at it you will become.
  • Reflect on what you do. It is useful to think about and discuss how well your group has worked and how it can improve.

Rules for effective group work

Group work will be mote effective if the following two rules are adopted:

  1. There should be no group leader. Everyone should co-operate to achieve the group’s goals.

  2. There should be no recorder; all students should take notes. In many cases, this will be particularly necessary, as each person will be taking the results of the group’s work to a sharing group. Taking notes gives everyone a record of the most important things to come out of a discussion.

All other rules should be developed through discussion within the group and the class.

Characteristics of effective and ineffective groups

 
Effective Groups
   
Ineffective Groups
1
The atmosphere tends to be informal, comfortable. People are involved and interested.
  1
The atmosphere reflects either indifference or boredom.
2
There is a lot of discussion in which everyone takes part. Everyone keeps to the point.
  2
Only one or two people talk. Little effort is made to keep to the point of the discussion.
3
Everybody understands their individual task.
  3
It is difficult to understand what the group task is.
4
The group members listen to each other. Every idea is given a hearing.
  4
People do not really listen to each other. Some ideas are not put forward to the group.
5
There is disagreement. The group is comfortable with this and works towards sorting it out. Nobody feels unhappy with the decisions made.
  5
Disagreements are not dealt with effectively. They are put to the vote without being discussed. Some people are unhappy with the decisions.
6
People feel free to criticise and say honestly what they think.
  6
People are not open about what they are thinking. They grumble about decisions afterwards.
7
Everybody knows how everybody else feels about what is being discussed.
  7
One or two people are dominant. What they say goes.
8
When action needs to be taken, everyone is clear about what has to be done, and they help each other.
  8
Nobody takes any interest in what has to be done, and nobody offers to help others.
9
Different people informally assume a leadership role from time to time.
  9
Only one or two people make the decisions.
10
The group is conscious of how well it is working and of what is interfering with its progress. It can look after itself.
  10
The group does not talk about how it is working or about the problems it is facing. It needs someone to look after it.

Adapted from Douglas McGregor 1960, The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill, New York.

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Last up-dated 12 November, 2012
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© George Marotous. Melbourne High School English Faculty
 
     
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