Group coursework

Group coursework can be dominated by the majority white or ethnic British students in the group. Those with language or social difficulties (among them ADHD and Autistic Spectrum students) are often marginalised. The benefits that diversity can bring to the HE experience are therefore lost.

Many international students will have had no experience of group work and may find it bewildering, e.g. those from cultures where your boss tells you what to do. They may not appreciate its importance. 

In addition, English as first language students often do not like those with poor English in their groups because they are not always able to contribute to the same extent as the others. 

Introverts are likely to be uncomfortable with groupwork and may go off on their own to do the work; they may then get better marks (Cain, 2012).


Make it clear why groupwork is important on the course. If students know how many times their briefs include teamwork across the three years, the number will demonstrate the importance attached to group work by the course and thus to the workplace.

Ensure that the assessment criteria support groupwork, e.g.

  • knowledge of: (explain) how teams work to achieve successful outcomes
  • understanding through: (work)ing effectively as a member of a team
  • technical and applied skills of: (demonstrate) professional teamwork practice.

Students need to know whether they will be assessed on the product/outcome of the brief (presentation?) or on the process (i.e. evidence of the whole experience and engagement with the team).

Ensure each member of a group participates. For example, provide structured activities where each member has a role and a turn to speak.

Maybe have a groupwork workshop. Ask:

  • why do students think team/group work is included in the brief?  
  • what are the good things about team/group work?
  • what are the challenges about team/group work?
  • what experiences have they had in the past?

Explore groupwork theory (useful materials on Google under ‘teamwork theory’).

Roles either need to be allocated or self or randomly selected, with students assured of the opportunity to practise every role through their time at UCA.  

Suggest this is an opportunity to develop weaknesses rather than working to strengths; a focus on process as the main form of assessment will support this – if the product is the main form of assessment, then the strategic learners will want to get the best mark.

If the students are successful in the brief they can put it on their CV or refer to it in supporting statements when applying for jobs.

Gill Nah, Course Leader: Creative Arts Education Suite

© Matthew Tizzard

Rules of engagement

  • Take free-fall risks. Express your views without prejudging them. What you have to say may have that golden perspective that helps us to break through confusion and ignorance.
  • Listen carefully. Focus on people’s thoughts, not on their efforts to express them.
  • Promote democracy. Encourage a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions.
  • Extend charity. Always give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
  • Practise civility. Never forget that colleagues have fundamental, inviolable worth as human beings and always must be respected as such.
  • Encourage others to take part and applaud the efforts of those who do.
  • Embrace ambiguity. There is very little closure in life. Most of the solutions we discover are at best tentative and hypothetical.
  • Build community. Constantly seek new ways to perpetuate and expand the learning community.

     From: Barrett, T. (2019) Crits: a student manual

Further reading:

Cain, S. (2012) The Power of Introverts

See also: