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.
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.
”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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Counselling Service which offers advice to study groups.
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.
What to do
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:
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:
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 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
If you have more time
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.
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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).