Effective Group Work
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    Working Effectively in Groups

    When working in groups, there are several things that you need to consider in order to work as effectively as possible.

    First, you need to set your group up for success by deciding how you expect group members to behave. This process has three components.
     

    Atmosphere

    According to the King County Dispute Resolution Center, setting the proper atmosphere is the first step. Groups should create a list that describes the way members should behave. Some of these qualities often include: respectful, honest, tolerant, and welcoming of different perspectives (King County Dispute Resolution Center, 2011).
     

    Barriers

    Several things can get in the way of productive group work, and your group should make a list of these in order to avoid them. Some examples include: name-calling, side conversations, interrupting, and people dominating the conversation (King County Dispute Resolution Center, 2011).
     

    Ground Rules

    Now that you've identified good and bad qualities of group behavior, your group should create a set of rules to live by - and then follow them. These ground rules should affirm the items from list one, and counteract the items from list two (King County Dispute Resolution Center, 2011).

    Now that your group is ready to proceed, here are some handy tips for successful interaction.

     

    1. Avoid the urge to divide a project up into pieces and assign those pieces to individual people, then slap them all together at the end and call it finished. Instead, multiply your chances of success by having group members review and revise each other's work at each step in the project.

       
    2. Allow every member to participate in every part of the project-take turns speaking and leading.

       
    3. Consider using formal in-person meetings as a way to keep everyone on task.

       
    4. The group should create a plan for dealing with people who aren't pulling their own weight, and address those problems as soon as they occur (this would be part of the ground rules section above).

       
    5. Stay on task.

       
    6. Listen carefully when others speak. Respond by paraphrasing to confirm your understanding before moving onto your own ideas.

       
    7. Be other-centered. Treat others with the same respect you hope to receive. Disagree without criticizing. Lift up the other members of your team, rather than knocking them down. Make sure that quiet group members are included.


     

    Finally, be sure that any final product of your group is effectively synthesized, so that it speaks with the voice of the group, rather than sounding like a combination of pieces created by different people.


     

    References

    King County Dispute Resolution Center. Working Collaboratively in Groups: Creating Ground Rules. http://www.kcdrc.org/documents/Creating%20Ground%20Rules.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2011.