Student insight: Taking part in group work
23 May 2019
Student bloggers from our range of Business, Finance and Management Masters courses share their experience of taking part in group work at Warwick Business School.
Micol Borsani, MSc International Business
At Warwick Business School, group work is likely to be a very important part of your degree. For example, for my Masters in International Business, group work accounted for 20% of the final grade of most modules. Although I never personally experienced any difficulties, and enjoyed group work throughout my course, it is no secret that group work can go wrong. However, group work is also a fantastic opportunity to make the most of the quality time you have together to build friendships, and exchange ideas with other highly motivated and skilled individuals. Sometimes group fights, failures and fallouts can occur, so here is a little guide to avoid the biggest pitfalls of group work and achieve collective success:
1. Cultural differences
One of the great advantages of WBS is the diversity of the student body. During group work you will be working with students with different ethnicities, language skills, cultures, and religions. This level of diversity is a strength, as you will have multiple perspectives on the group task. However, it can also be a challenge. Language barriers mean you have to be patient and cooperative to communicate effectively. Similarly, cultural differences may mean some individuals are less comfortable with group work or publicly expressing their opinions. It is important to be patient, and remember that each group member is equally valuable and deserving of respect.
2. Respect other ideas
Every member is equally valuable to the group, so you must ensure that each member has the opportunity to voice and justify their ideas and opinions. Not all ideas will be good ideas, but it is important to listen and evaluate all ideas as a group. Personally, I have found that democratic decision making tends to work best, as all ideas are listened to and decided upon together, which helps to avoid conflict.
3. For those doing the most
Group work can be unbalanced sometimes, with an individual bearing the brunt of most of the work. To avoid this happening, divide tasks clearly and equally in the first few meetings. Often, it is useful to assign a person the single task of editing and putting all the other group members’ work together to avoid over-burdening a single individual.
4. Leverage strengths
Each member will naturally be more interested in a task compared to another, based on their personal skills and capabilities. Try to assign tasks based on individual strengths and preferences. For example, if one member is too shy to present but is very good at collecting research, let them take on a role which they will most likely thrive in. This will ensure every member of the group feels comfortable, resulting in a better group outcome.
5. For the free riders
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have the free rider, the group member that well do very little or nothing at all, and rely on the hard work of the rest of the group. This not only increases the workload for everyone else, but it is also inconsiderate and unfair. It is important that you complete your work on time and to the best of your ability. I have always found that it best to lead by example, if you are working hard your group members will feel inspired to step up their game. By communicating with one another and addressing issues as they arise you will create the best learning environment when working together on a group project.
Josh Conner, MSc Business Analytics
While studying for a Masters in Business Analytics at Warwick Business School, I have had the opportunity and privilege to work in groups with many of my classmates. During group work activities I have gained an insight into how my classmates have been taught, as well as how they have interpreted the teachings from staff at WBS.
The different views and interpretations generated through group work leads to the highest quality of work being produced. Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree, group work was quite short and everyone’s opinions were very similar. However, this isn’t the case at WBS, where group work leads to in-depth and engaging discussions which really helps to cement my understanding. I would even go as far to say that I have learned more in my group work than I do sitting in lectures. Lectures give me the background theory I need to complete my work, but during group work my classmates provide me with further insight, as we learn so much from one another.
Eloho Oru, MSc Business with Marketing
Working in groups can be very tricky, the difference in personalities and skills can make assigning roles quite tedious. Firstly, it is important that everyone is put in a position that they feel comfortable with and that their position suits their skill set, this will ensure that every group member is able to make a meaningful contribution. Effective communication is a key skill when working as part of a group to avoid any conflicts.
During my undergraduate degree I was involved in a lot of group work tasks and therefore it was not a new experience to me. At WBS group work is a great way of sharing ideas and working together to achieve a challenging task. I feel I have become equipped with the tools I need to work as a valuable team member, which will really help me in my future career.
When working as part of a group there are personal guidelines that I follow, alongside the WBS guidelines. I always aim to be kind but confident, listen but contribute and always be on time. I feel that these guidelines create positivity, demonstrate commitment, and mutual respect. Working in a group can be very demanding, but watching the amount of creativity that blossoms from these experiences is hugely motivating and makes it all worthwhile. WBS has given me the opportunity to learn how to work alongside people from all over world and has helped me to understand that working together yields better results.
Paulo Salgueirinho, MSc Management
During my Masters programme, group work has played an important role in my learning journey at WBS, which I have found both stimulating and engaging. If you desire to work in an international environment, the group work you will be involved with throughout the programme, is a fantastic opportunity to practice working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
For my future career aspirations, it was essential for me to prepare myself as a strong team player. Group work has enabled me to collaborate with lots of different people, and understand their way of thinking, also helping me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I now have the opportunity to develop myself further as well as understanding how I can adapt myself to bring out the best qualities and strengths in others.
I believe that working as part of a group allows me to achieve more than working individually. During group work there is always an exchange of diverse ideas, a range of skills sets and the opportunity to challenge your understanding and interests. Additionally, beyond the academic learning, group work is a great way to meet people from all over the world and create new friendships.
Wenjun Li, MSc Finance and Economics
Group work is a key element throughout your postgraduate study at WBS. You will work with people you are unfamiliar with, and you may all come from different academics background. Everyone has their own personal strengths so it is important you identify them and apply them to the task. Group work can help you deepen your knowledge, motivate you to look at things differently, and improve your work efficiency. In addition to this, group work is an essential skills for your future career. WBS offers you a valuable opportunity to improve your communication skills, problem solving skills, and time management skills which will enhance your competitiveness in the job market.
My best advice for taking part in group work would be:
1. Be prepared
Before your first group meeting, you need to make sure you understand the task and do some research beforehand.
2. Be organised
In order to work efficiently, divide the work according to your strengths. Time management is essential, especially when you are working towards tight deadlines. Therefore, it is advisable to create a timeline in your first meeting and try to follow it.
Share your ideas with your group mates and do not be afraid if you have different views.
4. Be respectful
Everyone has different backgrounds and different strengths. Listen to your group member’s opinions because every opinion is valuable, even if you feel they might be wrong you can build on this to create new ideas.