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Group working: heaven or hell?

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The thought of having to produce work as a group can bring about feelings of dread and fear, sending a shiver up the spine of even the most dedicated student.

Mary Taggart-SNT

How am I going to be of use and make a valuable input? 

What if I say something silly?

What if we don’t get along? 

What if I can’t get a word in edgeways? 

What if no one else contributes and I’m left with all the work? 

These are some of the thoughts that briefly crossed my mind when I noticed plans of weekly group tasks and presentations whilst looking through the handbooks of some of the new modules on my second semester timetable.

Then I had the realisation that all would be fine. I have met lovely new friends and between us we ca make the perfect group: such and such is really creative, one is so clever, one is a whiz with ICT and I enjoy presenting. So that was that, we were sorted and it all worked out beautifully in the first of one of the seminars, we even went as far as calling ourselves the dream team. 

Our little comfort zone was short-lived however when in another module the lecturer announced with glee that we would not be in our choice of groups, we were to be allocated to pre-assigned groups! 

With shock and horror we waved our goodbyes and traipsed off to our new non-dream team groups. 

What a learning curve it has been though. I’ve made new friends and it’s been so interesting to find out about the backgrounds and experiences of other people I might not have had the chance to meet before.

It is an insight into different personalities and interesting to see how people interact. It’s been a chance to practice listening, being assertive, communicating, organising and building confidence, all of which are vital nursing attributes and skills. 

Not only have we been learning about our topics, we’ve also been learning and practising team working skills that will be so useful when we are in placements and eventually the workplace.

With that in mind, I’ve put together that key points for successful group working:


  1. Realise you all have a common objective, discuss what you want to achieve from the outset and make sure everyone is on the same page
  2. Set out a plan including ground rules: How will you agree decisions e.g. will you appoint a leader for each task? How often and when are you going to meet? 
  3. There are always different personalities so realise it is not about torturing you or showcasing the talents of one person, every group member has their own unique experiences, background, ideas and talents so listen, encourage others and speak up. Appreciate each others’ contributions and utilise each member’s strengths
  4. Keep a brief record of each member’s contribution in a group diary or pro forma
  5. Enjoy it, learn from it and have confidence in both yourself and others


Do you have any tips for group working?


Mary-Louise Taggart is in her first year studying mental health nursing at the University of Ulster

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