Group Work Frustrating? It doesn't have to be!

Group Work, chances are the word alone causes your shoulder muscles to tense. ‘I have to do everything alone’, ‘other group members take credit for my work’, ‘nobody listens to me’, and ‘my group members don't take me seriously’. These are just a few of the complaints that frustrated students express to their study advisors.

In the January newsletter, we announced the new training “Successful Working Together”. This week, the first group of 12 students will start, and we hope many will follow. Study adviser Annemarie Teunissen gives the training together with Student Psychologist with Nereida Ordovás García. We spoke to Annemarie about this new training.

Pulling your weight

Annemarie: “BSc students start with group work in their first year, but it’s only during ACT – Academic Consultancy Training – in the masters programme, that attention is paid to collaboration”. In the meantime, working together with a diverse group of fellow students can cause a lot of frustration. I think it would help if we would offer more guidance on group work in an early stage of the study. Ideally it would be part of the structural course schedule; this training, however, is a good start.

One of the most frequent complaints I get in my conversations with students is: “other team members don’t pull their weight” and “The team doesn’t listen to me”. If your are unhappy about cooperation in your team, it is important to realise that a group consists of a variety of people who all have different characters and working styles.

An introvert person for example, may need more time to think a problem through. If they feel the group doesn’t value their input, they pull out. That’s a pity, not only for the introverted student, but the group also misses out on a valuable contribution.

Improving your collaboration also requires honest self-reflection: you have a way of working, but it is important to realise that what works for you may not work for others.

Understanding each other is key

“The secret of successful working together lies in understanding each other. One student focuses on people, the other on result. Creativity versus efficiency, thorough versus fast. When you learn to notice the qualities of each person and understand the role they play in the group, you will also realise you need them all to be successful as a team.

With the training we want to encourage students to get to know themselves and their team mates better. Know what their personality traits are and how they would like to work. We teach them to really listen to each other and give honest and constructive feedback.”

It is important to be open to differences and pull strength from those differences

A practical tip: Manage Expectations

“Start your project with a discussion on every one's strengths, and let each other know what you need to function well. Pay attention to expectation management. How much time can you invest in the project? What else is on your mind – or your agenda – that is important ? Making clear agreements, and sticking to them, prevents a lot of frustration.”

Can I still participate in the February training?

“Unfortunately, the training starting on 16 February is full, but if you register for the waiting list, we will let you know when the next edition of the training will be scheduled.”  

Related trainings & workshops

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  • Communication
  • Standing up for Yourself
  • Mindfulness
  • and more


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