Groups and groupwork

A couple of weeks ago the Association of Business Schools organised a teaching and learning conference in Manchester.  It’s the successor to a conference which used to be run by the Higher Education Academy, and it’s an excellent forum for people who are interested in teaching and learning, particularly on undergraduate business and management courses, to exchange ideas.

One important theme that came up across the whole conference was group work, both group work among educators (because one point mentionedon a number of occasions is that teams of people teaching together can be very effective) and group work among students (which is an important component of most business and manaagement students’ studies).

This set me thinking about my work from a couple of years ago on millennial students.  One very strong pattern that I’d observed among the current generation of students, is that they like working in self-selected groups, where they can work with their friends and find their own approaches.  But they don’t like working in groups that are allocated for them: they resent at least the possibility that they may find themselves with a freeloader in the group, and they find the effort that they need to put into collaboration and communication can make the group process a chore – even though group work should offer the possibility of making things easier because tasks are being shared between different people.

For what it’s worth, I do think that business students do need to work in pre-allocated teams, if only because they’ll need to do the same once they enter employment and they often won’t be able to choose who they work with.  But maybe we could do more to understand the dynamics within these temes

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