Identifying Group Issues

Most groups experience issues at some time. Students need to be able to identify existing and potential issues, and work out what to do to resolve them and move on. Checklists such as the one below can help students identify problems, as well as helping them notice in what areas their group is functioning well.

You could ask students to submit this checklist to you periodically, so that you can monitor their progress and find out what types of issues groups are experiencing. You might like to look for common issues across groups, and then discuss them with the whole class.

Collecting group checklists also allows you to see if students are coming up with viable solutions to problems at the end of their checklists—these might be useful to discuss in class, too.

Follow up this discussion by asking students to report back (in a whole class discussion, or perhaps in learning journals) on how effective their strategies were, and why they did or didn't work. You can then collate, and distribute as a reference, strategies they identify as effective, before you set the next group task or project.

Student handout

Checklist for identifying issues in groups

Fill out the following checklist individually, and then compare the checklists of all the group members to identify commonly perceived problems and to reinforce what your group is doing well. Use the results as a basis for discussion with your group about how to alleviate the issues you have identified. Write down in the space at the bottom of the handout what the group intends to do in order to resolve these issues.

  • We don’t listen to each other.
  • We keep repeating arguments instead of moving on.
  • We constantly interrupt each other.
  • We just push our own views instead of developing and encouraging other's ideas.
  • We allow dominant members to dominate.
  • Some of us don’t contribute.
  • We don’t compromise enough.
  • We concentrate on making impressions rather than getting the job done.
  • We don’t have clear tasks or objectives.
  • We are not clear about what has been decided.
  • We don’t make it clear who is to take action on decisions.
  • We put each other down.
  • We don’t recognise that others have feelings about what is happening in the team.

What else is going wrong?

What are we going to do to resolve some of these issues? (List strategies, tasks, actions, etc.)

(Adapted from G. Gibbs (1994), Learning in Teams: A Student Manual, Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Centre for Staff, p. 42.)