Explore guidance on how to effectively plan, support, assess and evaluate group work. 

Why do we set group work?

Group or team work takes many forms including:

  • formally assessed group work activities spread over a whole term
  • one-off group exercises in a seminar
  • informal study groups set up by students.

‘Working effectively in a team’ is often found in learning outcomes, so why do we encourage it, and how can we support it and provide a good group work experience for our students?


Students working in groups can help reinforce learning as a collaborative endeavour and not a competitive sport. Communicating our learning with others helps consolidate our own learning. There is also a benefit in skills development.

Examples of skills developed include: cross-cultural learning, team work, leadership, diplomacy, people skills, identifying strengths, communication, conflict resolution and more. People entering the world of work now are more likely to have varied careers. Many of these skills will be critical if they are to work effectively within many different teams. 

Getting it right

With robust planning and appropriate scaffolding and support for students you'll avoid the common barriers to successful and productive group work.

Think of the guidance on this page as a toolkit and dip in and out as you need. Please also reach out to your Learning Technologist or Academic Developer if you need any further support or guidance, a bit of inspiration, just want to chat through some ideas, or have successes you want to share!

Group Work Toolkit

  • Planning


    1. Is there a related assessment to the group activity? If so, what are you assessing? Are you assessing the output of the group work (product), or how the groups work together, as well as individual contributions (process)? Knowing this will help you create the grading criteria
    2. Are you going to use the Buddycheck Canvas plug-in to facilitate peer scoringand provide automated feedback to students on their contributions to the group activity?
    3. How are you going to address potential barriers, for example language differences between group members or members working in different time zones?
    4. Will the groups be self-selecting or will you mix them?

    Practical pointers

    1. If the process is more important than the product, be sure that this is reflected in the assessment criteria and that students aren't stressing over the wrong details
    2. Before you schedule the groups to start working together, plan time for ice-breaker activities in which students can get to know their peers, as well as some of the technologies they can use
    3. Plan time in your sessions for a proper introduction to the process of group work. Make sure students know where to find help and what is expected of them
    4. Knowing the demographic and experience of your cohort can help you create a task that is sufficiently challenging to all students. This will help avoid unintentionally benefiting students with certain backgrounds.
    5. If groups are mixed, or unknown to each other, you will need to allow more time for the group to become effective. If they are self-selecting, groups often don't need as long for effective working practices to develop
  • Set up


    1. Are the rubric or assessment criteria visible to students in the assignments and guidance section of your Canvas module site?
    2. What technologies will you require the students to use? Is there a preferred platform and process for collaboration and submission?

    Practical pointers

    1. Use the rubric tool in Canvas, or add your assessment criteria to the assignment info page. If the group work is not assessed consider adding a page dedicated to group work, to include support links for students.
    2. If you are expecting students to use a specific technology, introduce it early. Alternatively consider allowing the groups to decide which platforms they will use and acknowledge that there needs to be time allowed for this.
  • Preparing your students


    1. Do students know why they are doing group work? Have you identified opportunities to demonstrate and practice skills required for effective group work such as listening or conflict resolution?
    2. Do students know how to monitor their own progress?
    3. Do they know what to do if there is a problem in the group?

    Practical pointers

    1. Use exemplars to help students understand what a good outcome looks like. These might be examples of prior students' methods of working as a group or examples of their assessment product.
    2. Find opportunities to demonstrate good online working practices, for example document sharing and scheduling.
    3. Make the guidance resources available on your module site.
  • Monitoring progress


    1. What strategies or processes are in place to measure progress in the groups, both for you and your students?
    2. How will you address any conflict within the groups that they are not able to manage?

    Practical pointers

    1. Does the group have an initial plan to fill out, in which strengths, roles, expected outcomes, challenges and mitigations can be identified?
    2. If issues arise, avoid splitting the group as this could have the unintended effect of disrupting another group. Instead work with them, modelling conflict resolution.
    3. Consider encouraging or requiring students to keep an individual reflective log, which is shared with you. This may alert you to issues before they become big issues, as well as identify under-performing students.
  • Assessment


    1. Is there a peer scoring/evaluation element,  e.g Buddycheck, which enables students to rate one another's contributions to the project?
    2. If so, are the criteria you want students to use when scoring one another made clear and available from the start of the group work project?
    3. What is the mechanism for students to reflect on their own role in the process?

    Practical pointers

    1. Provide early opportunities for students to engage with and be familiar with the assessment criteria. Perhaps using exemplars, they could work in pairs to provide feedback.
    2. Providing a structured set of questions for reflection can help students who are less comfortable with the reflective process.
  • Process evaluation


    1. How do students provide feedback to you on the process?
    2. What opportunities are there for students to consolidate their own performance?

    Practical Pointers

    1. Consider planning in a debrief session, either something the groups can do, or you can do with the groups. Include feedback on the process and tools used to help you inform future group tasks and setup.
    2. Remind students about the skills gained or developed and that many of these are transferable skills. Can they identify opportunities to use these skills in other modules on their course?

Group work checklist

In group work:

  • identify what you are assessing. Is this reflected in your assessment criteria or rubric?
  • be up front with your students about why they are engaging in group work
  • make the student resources available on your Canvas site
  • ensure there is an early opportunity to engage with marking schemes and formative assessment
  • introduce tools early and give students a range of example digital tools
  • ensure student reflection and self assessment is built in.

Group work in action

Gary Bell, Lecturer in Project Management

My top three tips for successful group work are:

  • set groups up as early as possible – give them time to gel.
  • involve technology early – work with EE and be clear on which tools will be used for what, provide options; there is not often enough time for students to learn new technologies
  • individual reflections can give you insights, such as being able to spot issues before they become big problems.

How To


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