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Elements of successful group work

There are certain elements that need to be in place for group work to be successful. Part of this depends on how your lecturer sets up the group task and also how you and your group members behave. There are three main elements that need to be fostered.

Positive interdependence

Positive interdependence occurs when group members take collective responsibility for their group’s success and coordinate efforts to achieve group tasks. You can develop positive interdependence by:

  • Agreeing and setting goals and tasks as a group
  • Understanding the roles that group members tend to adopt
  • Assigning roles to group members that play to their strengths

Individual accountability

Successful group work requires each member to be accountable for their tasks. Group members should also report their progress back to the group so each member knows how they are progressing as a whole. To foster individual accountability, assign someone to keep a register of tasks. Note down the task, who is responsible and specify due dates.

Constructive interaction

To achieve success as a group, each member needs to demonstrate a willingness to encourage and support other group members when needed. This might involve exchanging resources, providing feedback and helping members who might be lagging, however poor performance should not be overlooked and there are tips to address these types of issues.

Pause to reflect

  • Have you had a successful group work experience?
  • If so, what elements made it successful?
  • If not, how might applying some of the elements above make the experience better?