The above diagram, adapted from Kolb's Experiential Learning, indicates in quite a general way the skills needed for successful group work. To get students moving in this continual cycle of skills development, at first you need to encourage them to learn quite specific skills.

The following pages may be useful as you encourage your students to engage in group-related behaviour and activities:

Depending on the nature of the group activity or project, you should support your students in developing or establishing all or several of the following, if they are to work effectively as a team:

Do your students have prior experience
of group work?

Many students come to university with very little experience of group work. They don't necessarily have the social skills necessary for collaborating with peers. This can make group work activities very intimidating for them. If they don't receive adequate support and preparation time for group tasks, their learning experience in the group context may be a negative one.

The following pages will help you as you prepare your students to undertake a group project, activity or task:

Provide a context for group work

Provide students with a discipline-specific context for the development and assessment of group skills. This will help them understand the relevance and function of group projects, activities or tasks in the course; they will also see the advantages of group work, and be clear as to how group work contributes to their achieving the course objectives.

To develop group skills, students need to do more than just complete group tasks. Along the way, they need to reflect on group processes. Your course should provide opportunities for structured reflection.

The benefits of reflection are clear. Students, when they have a chance to reflect, are more likely to:

The following pages will help you embed the graduate attribute of group work skills in your course:

One of the most important reasons for using team learning is that the growing complexity of our various work environments makes it much more difficult for one person to deal with or research issues and make decisions alone. Team learning, therefore, attempts to introduce students to real world experiences in the classroom. —R.F. Stein and S. Hurd, Using Student Teams in the Classroom. Bolton, Massachusetts: Anker Publishing Company, 2000, p. 4.

This page outlines questions you should consider when embedding group work in your course.