Tips on Group Work

The success of your group project will depend largely on how you manage the group process. Research into group work shows the following characteristics of effective and less effective groups

Characteristics of groups that worked effectively:

  • equal contributions
  • full discussion of issues
  • member support

High quality result & high level of member


Common problems that prevent groups working effectively:

  • problems with logistics
  • problems with allocation of tasks
  • coordination of member contributions
  • lack of commitment from some group members

Quality of group product lower than

individual product, & high level of stress and dissatisfaction

Strategies for improving group dynamics

In group work you need to consider three important issues:

1. Setting up the group. Positive organisational systems such as drawing up a team constitution and open discussion in the first meeting of your group can help the development of a good dynamic.

2. Dealing with differences. In universities today, most groups are going to include people from different cultural backgrounds. Again, open discussion and tolerance are key factors for success here.

3. Dealing with negative behavior. Below is a table with a list of behaviors that could negatively affect group dynamics and some positive strategies to help overcome the behaviour.



Positive strategies


  • dominates the group
  • does not value the contributions of others
  • Talk privately with group leader
  • Give the person a silent role e.g. recorder
  • Record group session and play back to illustrate dominance


  • negative towards other contributions
  • does not contribute her/himself
  • Discuss early before it gets serious
  • Find out why
  • Make a comment in the group
  • Ask for suggestions as well as criticisms
  • Circulate records after meetings


  • withholds key information from the group in order to control it
  • Stage task so you all see an early draft
  • Dedicate a meeting to sharing resources

Free loading

  • avoids work, and doesn't follow through
  • often doesn't attend meetings
  • Discuss group policy in first meeting
  • Stage the contributions
  • Work in pairs
  • Find out why
  • Exclude from group (LAST RESORT - DISCUSS WITH STAFF)


  • devalues the contributions of other members; can be verbal or non-verbal (e.g. negative body language)
  • Group members verbally reinforce the value of each others contributions
  • Consult with other group members
  • Video record the meetings (!)

Group Roles

If you were a member of a group working together which role/s would you take?



Possible negative aspects


Produces ideas, imaginative, unorthodox, radical, uninhibited.

May need careful handling.


Finds things out, always knows someone who..., brings information back to the group, enthusiastic, gregarious.

Can be lazy and complacent.


Self-confident, commands respect, good speaker, thinks positively, good at guiding group.

Can be domineering, bossy.


Energetic, drives everyone along, needs to succeed, makes things happen.

Can be disruptive and argumentative if things don't go their way.


Careful, makes intelligent judgments, tests out ideas, evaluates proposals, helps group avoid mistakes.

Can become aloof, pessimistic, over-critical.

Team Worker

Sympathetic, understanding, sensitive, strong concern for social interaction, leads from behind. Places group above personal concerns.

Can be indecisive.


Methodical, hard working, reliable, orthodox, turns ideas into plans which are feasible and gets down to tasks.

Can be inflexible and uninspiring.


Painstaking, conscientious. Follows through and works hard to finish things properly. Meets deadlines and pays attention to detail.

Can be over-anxious and perfectionist.