Working in groups - A note to faculty and a quick guide for students - Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard Univ. - 1997: 3 von 8
Derek Bok Center for Teaching and
Learning, Harvard University
WORKING IN GROUPS: A QUICK GUIDE FOR STUDENTS #1
- Groups work best if people know each others' names and a bit
of their background and experience, especially those parts that
are related to the task at hand. Take time to introduce yourselves
- Be sure to include everyone when considering ideas about how
to proceed as a group. Some may never have participated in a small
group in an academic setting. Others may have ideas about what
works well. Allow time for people to express their inexperience
and hesitations as well as their experience with group projects.
- Most groups select a leader early on, especially if the work
is a long-term project. Other options for leadership in long-term
projects include taking turns for different works or different
phases of the work.
- Everyone needs to discuss and clarify the goals of the group's
work. Go around the group and hear everyone's ideas (before
discussing them) or encourage divergent thinking by brainstorming.
If you miss this step, trouble may develop part way through the
project. Even though time is scarce and you may have a big project
ahead of you, groups may take some time to settle in to work. If
you anticipate this, you may not be too impatient with the time it
takes to get started.
Organizing the Work
- Break up big jobs into smaller pieces. Allocate responsibility
for different parts of the group project to different individuals
or teams. Do not forget to account for assembling pieces into
- Develop a time-line, including who will do what, in what
format, by when. Include time at the end for assembling pieces
into final form. (This may take longer than you anticipate.) At
the end of each meeting, individuals should review what work they
expect to complete by the following session.
Understanding and Managing Group Processes
- Groups work best if everyone has a chance to make strong
contributions to the discussion at meetings and to the work of the
- At the beginning of each meeting, decide what you expect to
have accomplished by the end of the meeting.
- Someone (probably not the leader) should write all ideas, as
they are suggested, on the board or on large sheets of paper.
Designate a recorder of the group's decisions. Allocate
responsibility for group process (especially if you do not have a
fixed leader) such as a time manager for meetings and someone who
periodically says that it is time to see how things are going (see
- Save some time toward the end of the first meeting (and
periodically as the group continues) to check in with each other
on how the process is working:
- What leadership structure does the group want - one
designated leader? rotating leaders? separately assigned role.
Are any more ground rules needed, such as starting meetings
on time, kinds of interruptions allowed, and so forth?
Is everyone contributing to discussions? Can discussions be
managed differently so all can participate? Are people
listening to each other and allowing for different kinds of
Are all members accomplishing the work expected of them? Is
there anything group members can do to help those experiencing
Are there disagreements or difficulties within the group
that need to be addressed?
(Is someone dominating? Is someone left out?)
Is outside help needed to solve any problems?
Is everyone enjoying the work?
Copyright © 1997 Derek Bok Center
for Teaching and Learning. Permission is granted to
educational institutions to reproduce this document for
internal use provided the Bok Center's authorship and
copyright are acknowledged.
Derek Bok Center for
Teaching and Learning
Science Center 318
One Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-2901
Voice: (617) 495-4869 * Fax: (617) 495-3739
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