By giving the studenter the chance to experience working in groups with different tasks they get the opportunity to analyse what makes the difference between the working environment and capacity of a good and a bad group. The aim is to enchance the students ability to find and create structures and organisations that are effective when working in groups.
In some courses we give the students the chance to work in such groups throughout the whole course, while in other courses new groups are formed for each new task. Both ways are essential for learning how group dynamics work and how to act and respond to different situations.
Most of us have never had any formal education when it comes to group interactions. Usually, it is first when taking a course to become a project leader that scientist get in touch with terms such as group dynamics and variations of a work group and so on.
All have use for knowledge about how groups work and the processes behind them. With such skills you can influence the dynamics of a group and avoid conlicts that are unnecessary. We try to help the students through different models such as PBL (Problem Based Learning) rewritten for regular group tasks. Letting the students brainstorm ideas and trying different forms of groups with chairman, secretary and time keeper.
Different roles in a group
In some assignments students are given certain roles, such as chairman and secretary, which are rotated in the group at a regular basis to provide all students with some experience. Afterwards the group discuss organisation and how the work went. In other assignments the students analyse how different personalities influence the group process. For example how you are affected by the joker, the slacker or the workaholic. They also have to analyse which role(s) they usually take themselves and why.
We want the students to become aware of how their own actions affect the group and how to make a group perform at top efficiency.
Feedback and self evaluation
Giving feedback to students in groups are a sensitive thing and one main philosophy of our work is that we will not try to do psychology. Try to encourage students to evaluate within the group. Through series of exercises the students can analyse which kind of behaviour that aid the group dynamics and which behaviour that are destructive. Give suggestions on how to develop said "good" behaviour.
Group or individual work?
When it comes to group work it can happen that the students simply divide the assignment into different parts and each do one part without actually producing a joint product. Therefore it is important to encourage the students to work together and create a common report or presentation so that their skills as team members increase. Try to give them individual credit as well as group credit as some students dislike group efforts because they feel they have to drag the others along.