Be ready to ask other people to contribute to the discussion, so if you notice a student who has not said anything, that could be for any number of reasons, that might be because they are lacking confidence, they might be an international student, they maybe don’t know what their role is in that group, they maybe don’t know what they are supposed to do. Maybe they have got a learning disability that makes that type of activity difficult for them. So there are all kinds of reasons as to why somebody wouldn’t contribute in group work. But I think that it is incumbent on the other people in that group to invite that person in, to say to them, for example ‘Debbie, have you got anything to say?’ or ‘what did you think of that last point?’ or ‘do you understand what she meant by blah?’, to give everybody the opportunity to speak. So, in group work, its group work, everybody should say something. Another thing is that I think it is really important for people to listen to what people in the group say. I really don’t think that that is a problem most of the time, I think that most people are interested in what other people have to say, and I think that if you are lucky enough to find yourself in a group with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, that is even more interesting, because I think that you start to understand that your opinion is only one of many, and you can then develop your own thinking and ideas around the topic that you are discussing.
But then, if someone gives a point, or discusses something, not then to move on and ask ‘well what do you think, and what do you think and what do you think?’, because really, that is not a discussion, that is people putting across their own points of view. Try to respond to the content of what the person has contributed to the group work, so that you start to develop themes and ideas as a group. I think that that’s very important, not to get into this sort of ‘everybody has a say and that’s the end of it’. It’s what happens as a result of what people say that is the interesting thing in group work.
I think the other thing to think about is if there is an outcome to the group work, if it is some kind of task with an outcome, ensure that you are working towards that outcome, because I think that quite a lot of time people go off piste sometimes and talk about things that aren’t really about that outcome. And that is quite interesting too, obviously they have gone off task for some reason, but make sure that if you know you have got ten minutes, that two minutes before the end, that you’ve come back to the task, to the focus and that you’ve got something that you can report back, because often the tutor will ask for feedback from the group. So, ‘what is it your group wants to say?’ Not ‘what is it that you want to say?’ But, ‘what is it that the group as a whole want to say? What are the key points?’ So make sure that you are focused on outcomes as well.