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How I cope with group work

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Emily Kraus, third year studying adult nursing student, expalins why she’s found group work so helpful …

When it comes to assignments group work can both be a blessing and a curse.

What an excellent way to share ideas, corroborate research and pool together different views. Yet for some of us the opposite occurs where group members do not pull their weight, they do not turn up to meetings and in the end it’s a miracle that the group passes the assignment. Why are we asked to participate in group work if it is so stressful?

I have been part of several different groups during my nursing training both in the classroom and on placement.

It has become clear through these experiences that a group leader needs to be established, one whom the entire group feels has the ability to manage the success of the project. This does not mean that the leader must complete all the work but that they are able to listen to each member, value all insights into the project and delegate tasks appropriately.  

I have also found that good communication between members of the group is essential in succeeding. Face-to-face meetings are often very problematic to arrange especially if members have responsibilities outside of the classroom. Using a reply-all approach to emailing between group members is often the easiest way to create a discussion. Even with today’s excellent technology, emailing group members is not always ideal, as there are some people who are not able to respond immediately which can delay the progress of the project. There is also the potential of misconstruing a comment as there is no intonation in emails unlike meeting in person.  

I believe in order to succeed in a group project, whether it is a presentation or a written assignment, a clear aim needs to be identified. Once all group members are 100% certain of the objective of the task, then the rest of the work can begin. In fact with the understanding of the purpose explained, the team members are encouraged to commit to the project often resulting is a higher quality piece of work.

Lecturers often select the groups to create a balance within the class. Whilst having its merits, this approach can bring together students who do not get along. I am not that naive to suggest that everyone should get along yet in order to achieve a common goal, the success of the project, extra steps must be taken to ensure these feelings do not harm group as a whole. 

I have had the misfortune to belong in a group where, despite several efforts to create an element of harmony, personal conflicts were brought into the group meetings. Beyond our wildest expectations we managed to produce a presentation whereby each member worked alone and one member brought it together as a whole. It resulted in a repetitive and bumpy presentation. Ironically the presentation was on teamwork and how to work well interprofessionally. We all realised that this experience showed us that we had become the epitome of poor teamwork.

One group member wanted to approach the teacher and request a transfer to a different group. Together we discussed how inappropriate that request would be as on the wards there will always be personality clashes and we can learn now how to overcome these difficult situations.

These group experiences are part of our curriculum in order to show us before we register how difficult it is to work with not only other nurses but many other professionals too. We have all been given the chance to make our mistakes and to learn from them through working in groups. Group work is an excellent approach to reaching not only the learning objectives set by the syllabus but it also teaches us how to work as a team.

Emily Kraus is a third year studying adult nursing at Middlesex University.

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