Group Work & Feedback

Group work and feedback is an important part of your time as a student at a Danish university.

There are a number of different types of group work, such as assignment groups, study groups and writing groups. Overall, there is much to be gained both in an everyday context and at exams by investing time and energy into a well-functioning study group.

Many courses at the university include group work as a compulsory and important part of the structure of the course. This is one of the reasons why it is important that your group is effective and that you know how to use it. The following section provide good advice to help you and your group to come to a sound arrangement for your meetings and ways to solve any disagreements which may arise.

Feedback in study groups

By using feedback in your study group you improve your texts and skills as a writer. Feedback is a cornerstone of the academic world which gives you insight into how other people perceive your text as readers and get other people’s assessments of whether your text meets the requirements set for it. This is one of the ways a study group can be used in relation to your academic work; to improve your text in your continued work on it.

What's in it for you?

Group work is a vital aspect of studying.

”Why should students work in groups? The answer is simple: we learn by speaking to, writing to and teaching each other”.

These are the words of Lene Tortzen Bager, who in her role as professor at the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media is involved with the study of group work and learning, both in theory and in practice.

It is through group work that your academic skills as a student are refined, and the group work provides you with the opportunity to test and apply the things you have learnt on your course.

During and outside of lectures

Group work is a way for you to understand how you learn in many different ways and not just through lectures and teaching. It is therefore important that you can distinguish between the learning acquired during and outside of lectures.

Reading, preparation and group work are all part of this ’outside of lectures’ work, and are necessary activities in making the most of what you experience from the lectures themselves.

Below you can watch three international students at Aarhus University talk about why group work is a good idea.

Organizing your group

Making a ’group agreement’ can be a good way to help set up the academic collaboration in your group.

It is recommended that a newly-formed group meet in order to discuss the various expectations within the group.

Many potential problems in a study group can be avoided by ensuring that, before you get started, everybody is agreed on:

  • How often you want to meet

  • How long the meetings last

  • What the aim of the group is

  • How high the ambitions should be set

 Download a checklist for organising study group meetings 

Verbal or written contract?

Each group member can clarify their own expectations by making a note of what is most important to them in relation to the group work before discussing this with the rest of the group. If you feel it is helpful, this conversation can then be recorded as a written document or as a kind of group contract.

Remember that group work is a professional collaboration, and that your group is resource for help when you experience academic problems. It is not essential that you also see each other in your free time.

Resolving conflicts

What do you do if your group is not working out? Read more about how to avoid conflicts, and how to resolve them if they arise, here.

Many conflicts can be avoided by ensuring that the terms and expectations of the group as a whole are made clear from the outset.

Your study group is a professional working arrangement, and your fellow group members can be compared with colleagues in a working environment. It is therefore worth making an effort getting the group back on track if and when conflicts arise. Problems can often be solved by checking whether the agreements for the group work are up-to-date and sufficient.

 Download a checklist for resolving conflicts in study groups 

Outside help

If you are unable to resolve the group’s problems alone, it may be helpful to ask someone from outside the group for help. This could be a professor or teacher or your student counsellor. You can also consult the Student Counseling Service which offers advice to study groups.

How to give and receive feedback

Feedback produces better texts and better writers, and is a cornerstone of the academic world.

As a giver of feedback, you train your sense of how texts are structured and how they work. You can transfer this knowledge to your own texts, thus improving your skills as an author.

As you regularly give and receive feedback, you learn to look at your own written work in a professional manner, and you become better at assessing it.

How to...

What to do

...give feedback

Your feedback can be based on the criteria for the text or on your own impressions as a reader. Always be positive and specific when giving feedback.

Good advice for feedback-givers:

  • Give positive feedback first.

  • Always point to specific examples in the text of the things that you talk about in your feedback.

  • Do not apologise for your feedback. Even though you may not know as much about the academic content as the author, your feedback will still be valuable to him or her.

  • Give your feedback as a statement, not as an invitation for a discussion.

  • Focus you feedback particularly on how the academic content is presented in writing. Do not start a discussion on the content – you can do that in a study group meeting.
  • You can give feedback in relation to the criteria that the text has to fulfill, or on the impression that it makes on you as a reader. Usually, both approaches are combined when giving feedback.

 Download questions for providing feedback on academic texts 

...receive feedback

Avoid apologising for or defending your text, and be sure to get feedback early in your writing process.

Good advice on how to receive feedback:

  • Listen to the feedback, take notes, but take your time on deciding whether or not to use it.

  • Don’t enter into a dialogue with the feedback-giver in order to explain your text – it should be able to stand on its own.

  • Do not make apologies for your text – it is just one step in a long process, and no-one expects it to be perfect.
  • It is a good idea to get feedback early in your writing process, so that you can use it whilst still writing the text. You can ask your group to give you feedback on brainstorms, free writing, rough drafts, etc.
  • Be sure to let your feedback providers know which type of text you are submitting to them, so that they can adapt their feedback accordingly.

Submitting texts

In order to receive feedback, you have to submit unfinished texts. For many people, this is a new concept. Some find it difficult to allow fellow students to read their texts. However, it becomes easier with practice. As a receiver of feedback, you gradually learn to take a professional approach to your written work.

Remember that the feedback is about your text, not about you, and that feedback is not the same as criticism. The person who gives you feedback is working with you in order to improve your text.

...use your feedback

When you receive feedback, it is your task to listen and take notes. Feedback is a service, and it is always the author who decides whether or not to make use of it.

Remember, though, that if the person who is giving you the feedback has misunderstood something, it is likely that other readers will too.

You can also read about receiving feedback in the rule book (pdf) for the Text Feedback game.

Feedback techniques

The more feedback you get, the more you will learn. It is a good idea to ask for feedback from different persons in order to obtain a broader response. 

Feedback can be provided orally or in writing, on paper or electronically. Remember to take notes when receiving oral feedback or record it, e.g. on your mobile phone. Ask for the feedback provider’s notes afterwards.

Feedback in minutes

 
  • 3 + 3: The feedback giver points out three good things about your text and three things that can be improved. This can be done orally or in writing, e.g. by email.

  • ”If it was my assignment, I would…”: Ask the feedback provider how he or she would continue the writing process. This can be done orally or in writing.

  • The Elevator Version: Using only three sentences, the feedback provider retells your hypothesis, provisional conclusion, or final conclusion, depending on how far you are in your writing process. This gives you an opportunity to assess whether you have presented your points clearly.

If you have more time

  • Retelling: The feedback provider retells the main points of your text. This will show you whether your text is sufficiently clear.

  • One-argument test: Ask the feedback provider to place the overall argument of your text within Toulmin’s model of argumentation, e.g. by using the interactive exercise in Toulmin’s model. This tells you whether the text has one, and only one, overall argument, and whether this is clearly presented.

  • Read out loud: You or the feedback provider read the text out loud. The feedback provider then summarize his or her initial impressions of the text. He/she can also provide comments as you go along. This works best with short texts. One advantage of this method is that it is not necessary for the feedback provider to have read your text in advance.

  • Margin reactions: Give the feedback providers a printed version of your text and ask them person to write their impressions in the margins as they read; e.g. ‘exciting’, ‘unclear’, ‘long sentence’, ‘well formulated’, ‘good argument’. You will get the text back with the feedback providers' notes, and you can ask them if there is anything that you do not understand or would like to have elaborated.

A game for text feedback

The game is designed to support structured peer feedback in groups. A group of students meet and take turns to provide feedback on each others’ texts, face to face.

The method ensures that everyone gets the opportunity to speak, and enables the authors to receive specific and focused feedback on their work.

Download the game:

Please read the rulebook before starting.

Using the game

Students (and everybody else) can freely download the game and use it in their study groups.

Teachers who wish to use the game are referred to Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University.

View a short video on how to assemble the game.

The Text Feedback game was designed by Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen, Gry Sandholm Jensen and Mads Lund Jensen, based on an idea by Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen. The board and other parts of the game were designed by Mads Lund Jensen.

Peer review

Feedback is an essential part of the academic world in the form of peer review of academic articles.

Listen to two professors share their thoughts on feedback and peer review (in Danish and English, subtitled).

Peer review is a process in which academic professionals review articles written by colleagues prior to their publishment in journals. Students providing each other with feedback is also known as student peer feedback and is a way of training peer review skills.



Useful links:

Websites about academic skills:

  • Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Find information on how to research and write with correct grammar and style. Includes detailed style guides for different referencing systems.
  • How-To-Study An American site for lower level students from elementary school to college with easy to understand tips in both English and Spanish.
  • Study Guides and Strategies. Besides information about reading, writing, researching, studying and managing projects, this American site has tips for memorizing and concentrating.

Academic writing:


The content of this page was written by Anni Pedersen and Charlotte Albrechtsen, Center for Educational Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University.