By Clare Sandy, current UTS Bachelor of Midwifery student
Group assignments are often part of your assessment schedule when studying a health degree. And why wouldn’t they be? Learning to interact with other people is pretty central to almost every health profession at the end of the day. Developing collaboration and communication skills early will give you a good foundation for working in a multidisciplinary team in future. If anything, you’ll have something to talk about when it comes to answering that interview question.
Sometimes group work can be difficult to manage. Here are some tips to help:
Get to know who’s in your group
Usually you can pick your own partner/group for the assignment. However, sometimes the tutor may allocate the group.
Discuss the assignment
Use the strengths & skills within the group
Get together with your group and have a chat about the assessment. Find out what skills everyone has, for example, if the assignment is a PowerPoint presentation or poster, there may be someone in the group who has good design skills who could look after that part of the assessment. If it’s an evidence-based paper, someone may have strong research skills and be able to find the evidence to use then other group members can do the writing part. You might have someone who has a great eye for detail who can do the referencing, pull the paper together and be responsible for submitting it. However you choose to share the work, divide it up as evenly as you can.
Once you have decided who is doing what part of the assignment, agree on deadlines for the group. Think about other assignments you all have and clinical placement periods or internship blocks. Make sure the deadlines are realistic for each team member, everyone agrees on the deadlines and give yourselves a bit of time before the due date in case of any delays.
Decide how you will communicate with each other about the assignment – via email, SMS, a private Facebook group, a Messenger group chat, etc. Choose a communication tool that everyone has access to, so no-one is left out.
Summarise the plan
By summarising the plan for the assignment (who is doing what and the deadlines), everyone is clear of their own responsibilities. There is often a natural leader/organiser in the group who might help manage the initial group discussion and communicate the plan with the group.
Be patient and flexible
You may be happy to submit the assignment at 11:58pm when it’s due at midnight, while other people in your group would prefer it’s submitted a week before it’s due. Everyone has their own way of organising themselves for assignments and when working in a group, you need to be patient, flexible and negotiate deadlines.
Make sure you complete your part by the deadline – if something comes up that will delay your deadline, let the group know; Don’t wait till the day it’s due to tell everyone you haven’t started yet and now you need more time. Everyone has other assignments, clinical placements or internships and other things going on in their personal lives, so it’s unfair to miss a deadline without any kind of warning or reason.
Review before submission
Ensure everyone has had a chance to review the assignment before it’s submitted. You might find tools like ‘Track Changes’ in Microsoft Word helpful for providing feedback, with one person responsible for pulling the feedback together from each team member and making the changes.
Sometimes your teachers ask for feedback following group work and they can alter your grade based on that feedback. It’s in your best interest to do your best, communicate and deliver on deadlines otherwise you may get a lower grade than the rest of the group.
If you are finding it difficult to work with someone in your group and you haven’t been able to resolve it between you, talk to your tutor and ask for advice.
Visit UTS Library and HELPS (Higher Education Language and Presentation Support) for self-help resources on group work