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How to write a Reflection on Group Work Essay

Here are the exact steps you need to follow for a reflection on group work essay.

  • Explain what Reflection Is
  • Explore the benefits of group work
  • Explore the challenges group
  • Give examples of the benefits and challenges your group faced
  • Discuss how your group handled your challenges
  • Discuss what you will do differently next time

Do you have to reflect on how your group work project went?

This is a super common essay that teachers assign. So, let’s have a look at how you can go about writing a superb reflection on your group work project that should get great grades.

The essay structure I outline below takes the funnel approach to essay writing: it starts broad and general, then zooms in on your specific group’s situation.

how to write a reflection on group work essay

Disclaimer: Make sure you check with your teacher to see if this is a good style to use for your essay. Take a draft to your teacher to get their feedback on whether it’s what they’re looking for!

This is a 6-step essay (the 7 th step is editing!). Here’s a general rule for how much depth to go into depending on your word count:

  • 1500 word essay – one paragraph for each step, plus a paragraph each for the introduction and conclusion ;
  • 3000 word essay – two paragraphs for each step, plus a paragraph each for the introduction and conclusion;
  • 300 – 500 word essay – one or two sentences for each step.

Adjust this essay plan depending on your teacher’s requirements and remember to always ask your teacher, a classmate or a professional tutor to review the piece before submitting.

Here’s the steps I’ll outline for you in this advice article:

diagram showing the 6 step funnel approach to essays

Step 1. Explain what ‘Reflection’ Is

You might have heard that you need to define your terms in essays. Well, the most important term in this essay is ‘reflection’.

So, let’s have a look at what reflection is…

Reflection is the process of:

  • Pausing and looking back at what has just happened; then
  • Thinking about how you can get better next time.

Reflection is encouraged in most professions because it’s believed that reflection helps you to become better at your job – we could say ‘reflection makes you a better practitioner’.

Think about it: let’s say you did a speech in front of a crowd. Then, you looked at video footage of that speech and realised you said ‘um’ and ‘ah’ too many times. Next time, you’re going to focus on not saying ‘um’ so that you’ll do a better job next time, right?

Well, that’s reflection: thinking about what happened and how you can do better next time.

It’s really important that you do both of the above two points in your essay. You can’t just say what happened. You need to say how you will do better next time in order to get a top grade on this group work reflection essay.

Scholarly Sources to Cite for Step 1

Okay, so you have a good general idea of what reflection is. Now, what scholarly sources should you use when explaining reflection? Below, I’m going to give you two basic sources that would usually be enough for an undergraduate essay. I’ll also suggest two more sources for further reading if you really want to shine!

I recommend these two sources to cite when explaining what reflective practice is and how it occurs. They are two of the central sources on reflective practice:

  • Describe what happened during the group work process
  • Explain how you felt during the group work process
  • Look at the good and bad aspects of the group work process
  • What were some of the things that got in the way of success? What were some things that helped you succeed?
  • What could you have done differently to improve the situation?
  • Action plan. What are you going to do next time to make the group work process better?
  • What? Explain what happened
  • So What? Explain what you learned
  • Now What? What can I do next time to make the group work process better?

Possible Sources:

Bassot, B. (2015).  The reflective practice guide: An interdisciplinary approach to critical reflection . Routledge.

Brock, A. (2014). What is reflection and reflective practice?. In  The Early Years Reflective Practice Handbook  (pp. 25-39). Routledge.

Gibbs, G. (1988)  Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods . Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Extension Sources for Top Students

Now, if you want to go deeper and really show off your knowledge, have a look at these two scholars:

  • John Dewey – the first major scholar to come up with the idea of reflective practice
  • Donald Schön – technical rationality, reflection in action vs. reflection on action

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Step 2. Explore the general benefits of group work for learning

Once you have given an explanation of what group work is (and hopefully cited Gibbs, Rolfe, Dewey or Schon), I recommend digging into the benefits of group work for your own learning.

The teacher gave you a group work task for a reason: what is that reason?

You’ll need to explain the reasons group work is beneficial for you. This will show your teacher that you understand what group work is supposed to achieve. Here’s some ideas:

  • Multiple Perspectives. Group work helps you to see things from other people’s perspectives. If you did the task on your own, you might not have thought of some of the ideas that your team members contributed to the project.
  • Contribution of Unique Skills. Each team member might have a different set of skills they can bring to the table. You can explain how groups can make the most of different team members’ strengths to make the final contribution as good as it can be. For example, one team member might be good at IT and might be able to put together a strong final presentation, while another member might be a pro at researching using google scholar so they got the task of doing the initial scholarly research.
  • Improved Communication Skills. Group work projects help you to work on your communication skills. Communication skills required in group work projects include speaking in turn, speaking up when you have ideas, actively listening to other team members’ contributions, and crucially making compromises for the good of the team.
  • Learn to Manage Workplace Conflict. Lastly, your teachers often assign you group work tasks so you can learn to manage conflict and disagreement. You’ll come across this a whole lot in the workplace, so your teachers want you to have some experience being professional while handling disagreements.

You might be able to add more ideas to this list, or you might just want to select one or two from that list to write about depending on the length requirements for the essay.

Scholarly Sources for Step 3

Make sure you provide citations for these points above. You might want to use google scholar or google books and type in ‘Benefits of group work’ to find some quality scholarly sources to cite.

Step 3. Explore the general challenges group work can cause

Step 3 is the mirror image of Step 2. For this step, explore the challenges posed by group work.

Students are usually pretty good at this step because you can usually think of some aspects of group work that made you anxious or frustrated. Here are a few common challenges that group work causes:

  • Time Consuming. You need to organize meetups and often can’t move onto the next component of the project until everyone has agree to move on. When working on your own you can just crack on and get it done. So, team work often takes a lot of time and requires significant pre-planning so you don’t miss your submission deadlines!
  • Learning Style Conflicts. Different people learn in different ways. Some of us like to get everything done at the last minute or are not very meticulous in our writing. Others of us are very organized and detailed and get anxious when things don’t go exactly how we expect. This leads to conflict and frustration in a group work setting.
  • Free Loaders. Usually in a group work project there’s people who do more work than others. The issue of free loaders is always going to be a challenge in group work, and you can discuss in this section how ensuring individual accountability to the group is a common group work issue.
  • Communication Breakdown. This is one especially for online students. It’s often the case that you email team members your ideas or to ask them to reply by a deadline and you don’t hear back from them. Regular communication is an important part of group work, yet sometimes your team members will let you down on this part.

As with Step 3, consider adding more points to this list if you need to, or selecting one or two if your essay is only a short one.

8 Pros And Cons Of Group Work At University

You’ll probably find you can cite the same scholarly sources for both steps 2 and 3 because if a source discusses the benefits of group work it’ll probably also discuss the challenges.

Step 4. Explore the specific benefits and challenges your group faced

Step 4 is where you zoom in on your group’s specific challenges. Have a think: what were the issues you really struggled with as a group?

  • Was one team member absent for a few of the group meetings?
  • Did the group have to change some deadlines due to lack of time?
  • Were there any specific disagreements you had to work through?
  • Did a group member drop out of the group part way through?
  • Were there any communication break downs?

Feel free to also mention some things your group did really well. Have a think about these examples:

  • Was one member of the group really good at organizing you all?
  • Did you make some good professional relationships?
  • Did a group member help you to see something from an entirely new perspective?
  • Did working in a group help you to feel like you weren’t lost and alone in the process of completing the group work component of your course?

Here, because you’re talking about your own perspectives, it’s usually okay to use first person language (but check with your teacher). You are also talking about your own point of view so citations might not be quite as necessary, but it’s still a good idea to add in one or two citations – perhaps to the sources you cited in Steps 2 and 3?

Step 5. Discuss how your group managed your challenges

Step 5 is where you can explore how you worked to overcome some of the challenges you mentioned in Step 4.

So, have a think:

  • Did your group make any changes part way through the project to address some challenges you faced?
  • Did you set roles or delegate tasks to help ensure the group work process went smoothly?
  • Did you contact your teacher at any point for advice on how to progress in the group work scenario?
  • Did you use technology such as Google Docs or Facebook Messenger to help you to collaborate more effectively as a team?

In this step, you should be showing how your team was proactive in reflecting on your group work progress and making changes throughout the process to ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. This act of making little changes throughout the group work process is what’s called ‘Reflection in Action’ (Schön, 2017).

Scholarly Source for Step 5

Schön, D. A. (2017).  The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action . Routledge.

Step 6. Conclude by exploring what you will do differently next time

Step 6 is the most important step, and the one far too many students skip. For Step 6, you need to show how you not only reflected on what happened but also are able to use that reflection for personal growth into the future.

This is the heart and soul of your piece: here, you’re tying everything together and showing why reflection is so important!

This is the ‘action plan’ step in Gibbs’ cycle (you might want to cite Gibbs in this section!).

For Step 6, make some suggestions about how (based on your reflection) you now have some takeaway tips that you’ll bring forward to improve your group work skills next time. Here’s some ideas:

  • Will you work harder next time to set deadlines in advance?
  • Will you ensure you set clearer group roles next time to ensure the process runs more smoothly?
  • Will you use a different type of technology (such as Google Docs) to ensure group communication goes more smoothly?
  • Will you make sure you ask for help from your teacher earlier on in the process when you face challenges?
  • Will you try harder to see things from everyone’s perspectives so there’s less conflict?

This step will be personalized based upon your own group work challenges and how you felt about the group work process. Even if you think your group worked really well together, I recommend you still come up with one or two ideas for continual improvement. Your teacher will want to see that you used reflection to strive for continual self-improvement.

Scholarly Source for Step 6

Step 7. edit.

Okay, you’ve got the nuts and bolts of the assessment put together now! Next, all you’ve got to do is write up the introduction and conclusion then edit the piece to make sure you keep growing your grades.

Here’s a few important suggestions for this last point:

  • You should always write your introduction and conclusion last. They will be easier to write now that you’ve completed the main ‘body’ of the essay;
  • Use my 5-step I.N.T.R.O method to write your introduction;
  • Use my 5 C’s Conclusion method to write your conclusion;
  • Use my 5 tips for editing an essay to edit it;
  • Use the ProWritingAid app to get advice on how to improve your grammar and spelling. Make sure to also use the report on sentence length. It finds sentences that are too long and gives you advice on how to shorten them – such a good strategy for improving evaluative essay  quality!
  • Make sure you contact your teacher and ask for a one-to-one tutorial to go through the piece before submitting. This article only gives general advice, and you might need to make changes based upon the specific essay requirements that your teacher has provided.

That’s it! 7 steps to writing a quality group work reflection essay. I hope you found it useful. If you liked this post and want more clear and specific advice on writing great essays, I recommend signing up to my personal tutor mailing list.

Let’s sum up with those 7 steps one last time:

  • Explain what ‘Reflection’ Is
  • Explore the benefits of group work for learning
  • Explore the challenges of group work for learning
  • Explore the specific benefits and challenges your group faced
  • Discuss how your group managed your challenges
  • Conclude by exploring what you will do differently next time


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 31 Great Teachable Moment Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ SOLO Taxonomy - 5 Levels of Learning Complexity
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ Remedial Education - Advantages, Disadvantages & Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ What is Hidden Curriculum? - Examples, Pros & Cons

2 thoughts on “How to write a Reflection on Group Work Essay”

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Great instructions on writing a reflection essay. I would not change anything.

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Thanks so much for your feedback! I really appreciate it. – Chris.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Group Writing

What this handout is about.

Whether in the academic world or the business world, all of us are likely to participate in some form of group writing—an undergraduate group project for a class, a collaborative research paper or grant proposal, or a report produced by a business team. Writing in a group can have many benefits: multiple brains are better than one, both for generating ideas and for getting a job done. However, working in a group can sometimes be stressful because there are various opinions and writing styles to incorporate into one final product that pleases everyone. This handout will offer an overview of the collaborative process, strategies for writing successfully together, and tips for avoiding common pitfalls. It will also include links to some other handouts that may be especially helpful as your group moves through the writing process.

Disclaimer and disclosure

As this is a group writing handout, several Writing Center coaches worked together to create it. No coaches were harmed in this process; however, we did experience both the pros and the cons of the collaborative process. We have personally tested the various methods for sharing files and scheduling meetings that are described here. However, these are only our suggestions; we do not advocate any particular service or site.

The spectrum of collaboration in group writing

All writing can be considered collaborative in a sense, though we often don’t think of it that way. It would be truly surprising to find an author whose writing, even if it was completed independently, had not been influenced at some point by discussions with friends or colleagues. The range of possible collaboration varies from a group of co-authors who go through each portion of the writing process together, writing as a group with one voice, to a group with a primary author who does the majority of the work and then receives comments or edits from the co-authors.

A diagram illustrating the spectrum of collaboration in group writing with "more in-person collaboration" on the left and "less in-person collaboration" on the right.

Group projects for classes should usually fall towards the middle to left side of this diagram, with group members contributing roughly equally. However, in collaborations on research projects, the level of involvement of the various group members may vary widely. The key to success in either case is to be clear about group member responsibilities and expectations and to give credit (authorship) to members who contribute an appropriate amount. It may be useful to credit each group member for his or her various contributions.

Overview of steps of the collaborative process

Here we outline the steps of the collaborative process. You can use these questions to focus your thinking at each stage.

  • Share ideas and brainstorm together.
  • Formulate a draft thesis or argument .
  • Think about your assignment and the final product. What should it look like? What is its purpose? Who is the intended audience ?
  • Decide together who will write which parts of the paper/project.
  • What will the final product look like?
  • Arrange meetings: How often will the group or subsets of the group meet? When and where will the group meet? If the group doesn’t meet in person, how will information be shared?
  • Scheduling: What is the deadline for the final product? What are the deadlines for drafts?
  • How will the group find appropriate sources (books, journal articles, newspaper articles, visual media, trustworthy websites, interviews)? If the group will be creating data by conducting research, how will that process work?
  • Who will read and process the information found? This task again may be done by all members or divided up amongst members so that each person becomes the expert in one area and then teaches the rest of the group.
  • Think critically about the sources and their contributions to your topic. Which evidence should you include or exclude? Do you need more sources?
  • Analyze the data. How will you interpret your findings? What is the best way to present any relevant information to your readers-should you include pictures, graphs, tables, and charts, or just written text?
  • Note that brainstorming the main points of your paper as a group is helpful, even if separate parts of the writing are assigned to individuals. You’ll want to be sure that everyone agrees on the central ideas.
  • Where does your individual writing fit into the whole document?
  • Writing together may not be feasible for longer assignments or papers with coauthors at different universities, and it can be time-consuming. However, writing together does ensure that the finished document has one cohesive voice.
  • Talk about how the writing session should go BEFORE you get started. What goals do you have? How will you approach the writing task at hand?
  • Many people find it helpful to get all of the ideas down on paper in a rough form before discussing exact phrasing.
  • Remember that everyone has a different writing style! The most important thing is that your sentences be clear to readers.
  • If your group has drafted parts of the document separately, merge your ideas together into a single document first, then focus on meshing the styles. The first concern is to create a coherent product with a logical flow of ideas. Then the stylistic differences of the individual portions must be smoothed over.
  • Revise the ideas and structure of the paper before worrying about smaller, sentence-level errors (like problems with punctuation, grammar, or word choice). Is the argument clear? Is the evidence presented in a logical order? Do the transitions connect the ideas effectively?
  • Proofreading: Check for typos, spelling errors, punctuation problems, formatting issues, and grammatical mistakes. Reading the paper aloud is a very helpful strategy at this point.

Helpful collaborative writing strategies

Attitude counts for a lot.

Group work can be challenging at times, but a little enthusiasm can go a long way to helping the momentum of the group. Keep in mind that working in a group provides a unique opportunity to see how other people write; as you learn about their writing processes and strategies, you can reflect on your own. Working in a group inherently involves some level of negotiation, which will also facilitate your ability to skillfully work with others in the future.

Remember that respect goes along way! Group members will bring different skill sets and various amounts and types of background knowledge to the table. Show your fellow writers respect by listening carefully, talking to share your ideas, showing up on time for meetings, sending out drafts on schedule, providing positive feedback, and taking responsibility for an appropriate share of the work.

Start early and allow plenty of time for revising

Getting started early is important in individual projects; however, it is absolutely essential in group work. Because of the multiple people involved in researching and writing the paper, there are aspects of group projects that take additional time, such as deciding and agreeing upon a topic. Group projects should be approached in a structured way because there is simply less scheduling flexibility than when you are working alone. The final product should reflect a unified, cohesive voice and argument, and the only way of accomplishing this is by producing multiple drafts and revising them multiple times.

Plan a strategy for scheduling

One of the difficult aspects of collaborative writing is finding times when everyone can meet. Much of the group’s work may be completed individually, but face-to-face meetings are useful for ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Doodle.com , whenisgood.net , and needtomeet.com are free websites that can make scheduling easier. Using these sites, an organizer suggests multiple dates and times for a meeting, and then each group member can indicate whether he or she is able to meet at the specified times.

It is very important to set deadlines for drafts; people are busy, and not everyone will have time to read and respond at the last minute. It may help to assign a group facilitator who can send out reminders of the deadlines. If the writing is for a co-authored research paper, the lead author can take responsibility for reminding others that comments on a given draft are due by a specific date.

Submitting drafts at least one day ahead of the meeting allows other authors the opportunity to read over them before the meeting and arrive ready for a productive discussion.

Find a convenient and effective way to share files

There are many different ways to share drafts, research materials, and other files. Here we describe a few of the potential options we have explored and found to be functional. We do not advocate any one option, and we realize there are other equally useful options—this list is just a possible starting point for you:

  • Email attachments. People often share files by email; however, especially when there are many group members or there is a flurry of writing activity, this can lead to a deluge of emails in everyone’s inboxes and significant confusion about which file version is current.
  • Google documents . Files can be shared between group members and are instantaneously updated, even if two members are working at once. Changes made by one member will automatically appear on the document seen by all members. However, to use this option, every group member must have a Gmail account (which is free), and there are often formatting issues when converting Google documents back to Microsoft Word.
  • Dropbox . Dropbox.com is free to join. It allows you to share up to 2GB of files, which can then be synched and accessible from multiple computers. The downside of this approach is that everyone has to join, and someone must install the software on at least one personal computer. Dropbox can then be accessed from any computer online by logging onto the website.
  • Common server space. If all group members have access to a shared server space, this is often an ideal solution. Members of a lab group or a lab course with available server space typically have these resources. Just be sure to make a folder for your project and clearly label your files.

Note that even when you are sharing or storing files for group writing projects in a common location, it is still essential to periodically make back-up copies and store them on your own computer! It is never fun to lose your (or your group’s) hard work.

Try separating the tasks of revising and editing/proofreading

It may be helpful to assign giving feedback on specific items to particular group members. First, group members should provide general feedback and comments on content. Only after revising and solidifying the main ideas and structure of the paper should you move on to editing and proofreading. After all, there is no point in spending your time making a certain sentence as beautiful and correct as possible when that sentence may later be cut out. When completing your final revisions, it may be helpful to assign various concerns (for example, grammar, organization, flow, transitions, and format) to individual group members to focus this process. This is an excellent time to let group members play to their strengths; if you know that you are good at transitions, offer to take care of that editing task.

Your group project is an opportunity to become experts on your topic. Go to the library (in actuality or online), collect relevant books, articles, and data sources, and consult a reference librarian if you have any issues. Talk to your professor or TA early in the process to ensure that the group is on the right track. Find experts in the field to interview if it is appropriate. If you have data to analyze, meet with a statistician. If you are having issues with the writing, use the online handouts at the Writing Center or come in for a face-to-face meeting: a coach can meet with you as a group or one-on-one.

Immediately dividing the writing into pieces

While this may initially seem to be the best way to approach a group writing process, it can also generate more work later on, when the parts written separately must be put together into a unified document. The different pieces must first be edited to generate a logical flow of ideas, without repetition. Once the pieces have been stuck together, the entire paper must be edited to eliminate differences in style and any inconsistencies between the individual authors’ various chunks. Thus, while it may take more time up-front to write together, in the end a closer collaboration can save you from the difficulties of combining pieces of writing and may create a stronger, more cohesive document.


Although this is solid advice for any project, it is even more essential to start working on group projects in a timely manner. In group writing, there are more people to help with the work-but there are also multiple schedules to juggle and more opinions to seek.

Being a solo group member

Not everyone enjoys working in groups. You may truly desire to go solo on this project, and you may even be capable of doing a great job on your own. However, if this is a group assignment, then the prompt is asking for everyone to participate. If you are feeling the need to take over everything, try discussing expectations with your fellow group members as well as the teaching assistant or professor. However, always address your concerns with group members first. Try to approach the group project as a learning experiment: you are learning not only about the project material but also about how to motivate others and work together.

Waiting for other group members to do all of the work

If this is a project for a class, you are leaving your grade in the control of others. Leaving the work to everyone else is not fair to your group mates. And in the end, if you do not contribute, then you are taking credit for work that you did not do; this is a form of academic dishonesty. To ensure that you can do your share, try to volunteer early for a portion of the work that you are interested in or feel you can manage.

Leaving all the end work to one person

It may be tempting to leave all merging, editing, and/or presentation work to one person. Be careful. There are several reasons why this may be ill-advised. 1) The editor/presenter may not completely understand every idea, sentence, or word that another author wrote, leading to ambiguity or even mistakes in the end paper or presentation. 2) Editing is tough, time-consuming work. The editor often finds himself or herself doing more work than was expected as he or she tries to decipher and merge the original contributions under the time pressure of an approaching deadline. If you decide to follow this path and have one person combine the separate writings of many people, be sure to leave plenty of time for a final review by all of the writers. Ask the editor to send out the final draft of the completed work to each of the authors and let every contributor review and respond to the final product. Ideally, there should also be a test run of any live presentations that the group or a representative may make.

Entirely negative critiques

When giving feedback or commenting on the work of other group members, focusing only on “problems” can be overwhelming and put your colleagues on the defensive. Try to highlight the positive parts of the project in addition to pointing out things that need work. Remember that this is constructive feedback, so don’t forget to add concrete, specific suggestions on how to proceed. It can also be helpful to remind yourself that many of your comments are your own opinions or reactions, not absolute, unquestionable truths, and then phrase what you say accordingly. It is much easier and more helpful to hear “I had trouble understanding this paragraph because I couldn’t see how it tied back to our main argument” than to hear “this paragraph is unclear and irrelevant.”

Writing in a group can be challenging, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about your topic, the writing process, and the best strategies for collaboration. We hope that our tips will help you and your group members have a great experience.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Cross, Geoffrey. 1994. Collaboration and Conflict: A Contextual Exploration of Group Writing and Positive Emphasis . Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Ede, Lisa S., and Andrea Lunsford. 1990. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing . Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Speck, Bruce W. 2002. Facilitating Students’ Collaborative Writing . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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education, community-building and change

What is group work?


What is group work? While many practitioners may describe what they do as ‘group work’, they often have only a limited appreciation of what group work is and what it entails. In this piece we introduce groups and group work, define some key aspects, and suggest areas for exploration. In particular we focus on the process of working with groups.

Contents : introduction  • what is a group?  • working with  • working with groups – a definition  • three foci  • exploring the theory and practice of group work  • conclusion  • further reading and references  • how to cite this article

For some group work is just another way of talking about teamwork. In this context, working in groups is often presented as a good way of dividing work and increasing productivity. It can also be argued that it allows for the utilization of the different skills, knowledge and experiences that people have. As a result, in schools and colleges it is often approached as a skill to be learnt – the ability to work in group-based environments. Within schools and colleges, working in groups can also be adopted as a mean of carrying forward curriculum concerns and varying the classroom experience – a useful addition to the teacher or instructor’s repertoire.

In this article our focus is different. We explore the process of working with groups both so that they may undertake particular tasks and become environments where people can share in a common life, form beneficial relationships and help each other. Entering groups or forming them, and then working with them so that members are able be around each other, take responsibility and work together on shared tasks, involves some very sophisticated abilities on the part of practitioners. These abilities are often not recognized for what they are – for when group work is done well it can seem natural. Skilled group workers, like skilled counsellors, have to be able to draw upon an extensive repertoire of understandings, experiences and skills and be able to think on their feet. They have to respond both quickly and sensitively to what is emerging in the exchanges and relationships in the groups they are working with.

Our starting point for this is a brief exploration of the nature of groups. We then turn to the process of working with. We also try to define group work – and discuss some of foci that workers need to attend to. We finish with an overview of the development of group work as a focus for theory-making and exploration.

What is a group?

In a separate article we discuss the nature of groups and their significance for human societies (see What is a group? ). Here I just want to highlight five main points.

First, while there are some very different ways of defining groups – often depending upon which aspect of them that commentators and researchers want to focus upon – it is worthwhile looking to a definition that takes things back to basics. Here, as a starting point, we are using Donelson R. Forsyth’s definition of a group as ‘ two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationships ’ [emphasis in original] (2006: 2-3). This definition has the merit of bringing together three elements: the number of individuals involved, connection, and relationship.

Second, groups are a fundamental part of human experience. They allow people to develop more complex and larger-scale activities; are significant sites of socialization and education; and provide settings where relationships can form and grow, and where people can find help and support.

Humans are small group beings. We always have been and we always will be. The ubiquitousness of groups and the inevitability of being in them makes groups one of the most important factors in our lives. As the effectiveness of our groups goes, so goes the quality of our lives. (Johnson and Johnson 2003: 579)

However, there is a downside to all this. The socialization they offer, for example, might be highly constraining and oppressive for some of their members. Given all of this it is easy to see why the intervention of skilled leaders and facilitators is sometimes necessary.

Third, the social relationships involved in groups entail interdependence. As Kurt Lewin wrote, ‘it is not similarity or dissimilarity of individuals that constitutes a group, but interdependence of fate’ (op. cit.: 165). In other words, groups come about in a psychological sense because people realize they are ‘in the same boat’ (Brown 1988: 28). However, even more significant than this for group process, Lewin argued, is some interdependence in the goals of group members. To get something done it is often necessary to cooperate with others.

Fourth, when considering the activities of informal educators and other workers and animateurs operating in local communities it is helpful to consider whether the groups they engage with are planned or emergent. Planned groups are specifically formed for some purpose – either by their members, or by some external individual, group or organization. Emergent groups come into being relatively spontaneously where people find themselves together in the same place, or where the same collection of people gradually come to know each other through conversation and interaction over a period of time. (Cartwright and Zander 1968). Much of the recent literature of group work is concerned with groups formed by the worker or agency. Relatively little has been written over the last decade or so about working with emergent groups or groups formed by their members. As a result some significant dimensions of experience have been left rather unexplored.

Last, considerable insights can be gained into the process and functioning of groups via the literature of group dynamics and of small groups. Of particular help are explorations of group structure (including the group size and the roles people play), group norms and culture, group goals, and the relative cohesiveness of groups (all discussed in What is a group? ). That said, the skills needed for engaging in and with group life – and the attitudes, orientations and ideas associated with them – are learnt, predominantly, through experiencing group life. This provides a powerful rationale for educative interventions.

Working with

Educators and animateurs often have to ‘be around’ for a time in many settings before we are approached or accepted:

It may seem obvious, but for others to meet us as helpers, we have to be available. People must know who we are and where we are to be found. They also need to know what we may be able to offer. They also must feel able to approach us (or be open to our initiating contact). (Smith and Smith 2008: 17)

Whether we are working with groups that we have formed, or are seeking to enter groups, to function as workers we need to be recognized as workers. In other words, the people in the situation need to give us space to engage with them around some experience, issue or task. Both workers and participants need to acknowledge that something called ‘work’ is going on.

The ‘work’ in ‘group work’ is a form of ‘working with’. We are directing our energies in a particular way. This is based in an understanding that people are not machines or objects that can be worked on like motor cars (Jeffs and Smith 2005: 70). We are spending time in the company of others. They have allowed us into their lives – and there is a social, emotional and moral relationship between us. As such, ‘working with’ is a special form of ‘being with’.

To engage with another’s thoughts and feelings, and to attend to our own, we have to be in a certain frame of mind. We have to be open to what is being said, to listen for meaning. To work with others is, in essence, to engage in a conversation with them. We should not seek to act on the other person but join with them in a search for understanding and possibility. (Smith and Smith 2008: 20)

Not surprisingly all this, when combined with the sorts of questions and issues that we have to engage with, the process of working with another can often be ‘a confusing, complex and demanding experience, both mentally and emotionally’ (Crosby 2001: 60).

In the conversations of informal and community educators the notion of ’working with’ is often reserved for describing more formal encounters where there is an explicit effort to help people attend to feelings, reflect on experiences, think about things, and make plans (Smith 1994: 95). It can involve putting aside a special time and agreeing a place to talk things through. Often, though, it entails creating a moment for reflection and exploration then and there (Smith and Smith 2008:20).

As Kerry Young (2006) has argued, ‘Working with’ can also be seen as an exercise in moral philosophy. Often people seeking to answer in some way deep questions about themselves and the situations they face. At root these look to how people should live their lives: ‘what is the right way to act in this situation or that; of what does happiness consist for me and for others; how should I to relate to others; what sort of society should I be working for?’ (Smith and Smith 2008: 20). This inevitably entails us as workers to be asking the same questions of ourselves. There needs to be, as Gisela Konopka (1963) has argued, certain values running through the way we engage with others. In relation to social group work, she looked three ‘humanistic’ concerns. That:

  • individuals are of inherent worth.
  • people are mutually responsible for each other; and
  • people have the fundamental right to to experience mental health brought about by social and political conditions that support their fulfilment. (see Glassman and Kates 1990: 14).

Working with groups – a definition for starters

What does it mean, then, to say that we work with groups, or that we are group workers? A problem that immediately faces us is that most commentators and writers come at this question from the tradition or arena of practice in which they are located. However, if we bring together the discussion so far we can say that at base working with groups involves engaging with, and seeking to enhance, interactions and relationships within a gathering of two or more other people.

Some will be focusing on issues and problems, and individual functioning. It is not surprising, for example, that Gisela Konopka (1963) writing from within social work would have this sort of focus – although she does look across different areas where these might arise:

Social group work is a method of social work which helps individuals to enhance their social functioning through purposeful group experiences, and to cope more effectively with their personal, group or community problems.

However, as Allan Brown (1992: 8) and others have pointed out, many group workers look beyond helping the individual with a problem. Group work can emphasize ‘action and influence as well as reaction and adaption’ ( op. cit. ). Thus, Allan Brown argues:

… group work provides a context in which individuals help each other ; it is a method of helping groups as well as helping individuals; and it can enable individuals and groups to influence and change personal, group, organizational and community problems. (Brown 1992: 8. Emphasis in the original)

This particular way of conceptualizing group work is helpful in that it looks to strengthen the group as what Lawrence Shulman (1979: 109; 1999) described as a ‘mutual aid system’. The worker seeks to help people to help each other. Crucially, it is concerned with the ways in which both individuals and groups can build more fulfilling lives for themselves and for communities of which they are a part. It also looks to wider change.

From this exploration I want to highlight three foci for group workers. They need to ‘think group,  attend to purpose, and stay in touch with themselves.

three foci of group work - mks

Thinking group

For the worker working with a group entails ‘thinking group’ (McDermott 2002: 80-91). ‘Thinking group’ means focusing on the group as a whole – ‘considering everything that happens in terms of the group context (also the wider context in which it is embedded –social, political, organizational) because this is where meaning is manifest’ ( op. cit. :81-2). She continues:

In advocating for the group worker to keep in mind that, while groups are comprised of individuals, at the same time their coming together may enable the expression of powerful forces reinforcing as sense of commonality and solidarity. These are the building blocks for the development of trust. Trust and its counterpart – reciprocity amongst members, may establish the bonds which serve to enable members to achieve their individual and common goals. The task of the worker is to nurture such developments. ( op. cit. : 82)

For Fiona McDermott the capacity to ‘think group’ is the single most important contribution that group workers can bring to their practice. They need to avoid working with individuals in the setting of the group, but rather see individual growth and development as something that emerges out of group interaction and group life.

Attending to purpose

As well as attending to the group as a process of harnessing the collective strengths of group members, workers also need to look to purpose. Urania Glassman and Len Kates (1990: 105-18), for example, have argued that group workers should attempt to effect two complementary objectives. The first is the development of mutual aid systems; the second is to help the group to attend to, and achieve, their purpose (what they describe as the actualization of purpose). In other words, workers need to keep their eyes on the individual and collective goals that the group may or does want to work towards. They also need to intervene in the group where appropriate to help people to clarify and achieve these.

When considering purpose it is also important to bear in mind the nature of the group engaged with – and the context within which we are working with them. An influential model for thinking about this in social work came from Papell and Rothman (1966). They distinguished between three models:

  • remedial – where the aim on the part of the work/agency is individual social adaption.
  • reciprocal – where the aim is to strengthen mutual aid and to mediate between individuals and society.
  • social goals – where the concern is to further social justice often through collective, social action.

Subsequently, there has been various variations and developments of this model e.g. Shulman (1999) – but this original model still remains helpful as a way of alerting us to thinking about purpose – especially from the perspective of the agency employing group workers.

Attending to ourselves

As Parker Palmer has argued in the context of education any attempt at reform or development will fail if we do not cherish and challenge the human heart that is the source of good practice (Palmer 1998: 3). For Palmer, good practice is rather more than technique, it flows from the identity and integrity of the worker’ (Palmer 2000: 11). This means that they both know themselves, and that they are seeking to live life as well as they can. Good group workers are, thus, connected, able to be in touch with themselves, with those they work with and their ‘subjects’ – and act in ways that further flourishing and wholeness.

In a passage which provides one of the most succinct and direct rationales for a concern with attending to, and knowing, our selves Parker Palmer draws out the implications of his argument.

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together…. When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are. I will see them through a glass darkly, in the shadows of my unexamined life – and when I cannot see them clearly, I cannot teach them well. When I do not know myself, I cannot know my subject – not at the deepest levels of embodied, personal meaning. I will know it only abstractly, from a distance, a congeries of concepts as far removed from the world as I am from personal truth. (Parker Palmer 1998: 2)

If we do not know who we are then we cannot know those we work with, nor the areas we explore.

Exploring the theory and practice of group work

The emergence of the group as a focus for intervention and work within social work and informal education in Britain and north America was a slow process and initially largely wrapped up with the response of Christians, particularly evangelical Christians, to the social conditions they encountered in the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century. Examples from Britain include Hannah More and Robert Raikes and Sunday schooling ; John Pound and Quentin Hogg and ragged schooling ; George Williams and the YMCA ; Arthur Sweatman and Maude Stanley in boys’ and girls’ club work. Their motives were often a complex mix of concern for others, the desire to bring people to Bible truths and values, and worries about the threat to order that the masses posed.

Alongside this a considerable amount of mutual aid activity developed during the nineteenth century especially around chapels, meeting houses, working men’s clubs and in the field of adult education (see, for example, Smith 1988 on the making of popular youth work; Horton Smith 2000; Rose 2002). There was also a growing appreciation of group process and sophistication in approach within adult education. However, it was with developments in psychology and sociology (with the emergence of ‘small group theory’ and studies of group dynamics, for example) that the scene for a more thorough building of theory about working with groups – particularly in north America. Alongside this, the influence of progressive education as a philosophy – particularly through the work of John Dewey and William Kilpatrick – began to be felt by many practitioners (see Reid 1981a ).

In the USA, courses on group work started to appear in the early 1920s – and the first sustained treatments of group work began to appear. In particular, the work of Grace Coyle (1930; 1937) drawing upon her experience of settlement work, the YWCA and adult education was influential – but many others around the field such as Eduard Lindeman (1924), Margaretta Williamson (1929) and Mary Parker Follett (1918; 1924) were exploring different aspects of working with groups. There began to be a discourse around the work that transcended professional and sector boundaries.

First, it was discovered that workers in a variety of agencies had a great deal in common and that the major component of that common experience lay in their experience with groups. Out of this recognition came the widespread use of the term social group work and the development of interest groups focusing on work with groups in a number of cities. The second discovery was that what was common to all the groups was that, in addition to the activities in which the group engaged, groups involved a network of relationships between the members and the worker, between the group as a whole and the agency and neighborhood in which the members lived. This combination of relationships was called the group process. This second realization produced a search for deeper insights into these relationships, an attempt to describe them and to understand their dynamics. (Reid 1981a:123)

Group work began to be seen as a dimension of social work in north America (perhaps best symbolized by it being accepted as a section at the 1935 National Conference of Social Work). It’s potential as a therapeutic process was also starting to be recognized (Boyd 1935). As might be expected there was considerable debate around what group work was – and where it belonged (see, for example, Lieberman 1938). Although group work methodology was developed within recreation and informal education agencies it was increasingly being used in social work-oriented agencies within other institutions such as children’s institutions, hospitals, and churches (Reid 1981b: 145-6). Influential commentators such as Gertrude Wilson (1941) argued that group work was a core method of social work and not a field, movement, or agency. At the same time theorizing about group work was benefiting from significant advances in the understanding of group dynamics (most especially through the work of Kurt Lewin) and small work groups (Elton Mayo’s research at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company being the best known).

By the start of World War II, group work in north America ‘was beginning to change its emphasis from social action and preparation of group members for social responsibility to problems of individual adjustment’ (Reid 1981b: 154). This gathered pace during the 1940s and was reflected in the publication of key practice texts – notably Grace L. Coyle’s (1948) Group Work with American Youth: A Guide to the Practice of Leadership , and Gertrude Wilson and Gladys Ryland’s (1949) Social group work practice; the creative use of the social process . There were those, such as Alan Klein (1953) who continued to explore the connection between group work and democracy – but much of the running was now being made by those working within social work and therapy. Gisela Konopka’s explorations of therapeutic group work with children (1949), group work in institutions (1954) and of social group work as a helping process (1963) were amongst the most important here. Some more generic texts around social group work such Phillips (1957) also appeared.

In Britain, there was some awareness of these developments – but there was very little explicit exploration of group work theory and practice until the early 1950s. A number of the key figures involved in stimulating debate and exploration came from youth work – notably Peter Kuenstler at the University of Bristol. Kuenstler encouraged Grace Coyle to come to Britain to spend time with workers – and edited the first major text on social group work in Britain (Kuenstler 1955). Josephine Klein was another pivotal researcher and writer. Her books The Study of Groups (1956) and Working with Groups (1961) were major additions to the literature – and brought groups and group work firmly into the discourse of social work. This was helped by the attention given by the Younghusband Report (Ministry of Health 1959) to social group work.

Group work as form of social work is directed towards giving people a constructive experience of membership in a group, so that they may develop further as individuals and be better able to contribute to the life of the community.

There was also important work happening within community development – with studies of community groups (Spencer 1964) and small social groups (Phillips 1965). George Goetschius ’ (1969) long term exploration of work with community and estate groups was also important. Further significant work followed – notably Joan Matthews (1966) explorations of working with youth groups, Leslie Button’s (1974) examination of developmental group work, and Bernard Davies’ (1975) path-breaking interactionalist perspective with regard to the use of groups in social work practice.

At the same time there had been an explosion in exploration and publishing in the United States. Aside from the obvious problem of scale, there are issues around categorizing material, quality (many texts are are repeats of a basic how-to-do-it formula), and purpose. To make life easier I have adapted a framework used by Kenneth E. Reid in his helpful study of the use of groups in social work (1981) and added in a more therapeutically strand. I am not very comfortable with the categories – but they do provide a way of mapping material:

Case-focused group work . This approach can be described as ‘preventative and rehabilitative’, ‘remedial’ or ‘organizational’ – and is focused on the individual. The group provides a means by which an individual’s problems can be assessed and addressed. It is most clearly connected with social work and casework and case management. The emphasis is upon ‘ameliorating or preventing the adverse conditions that negatively influence individuals and result in deviant behaviour’ (Reid 1981: 191). Classic examples of this literature come from Gisela Konopka (1949, 1954, 1963) and Paul Glasser et al. (1974).

Interaction-focused group work . Here the group is understood as ‘a system of mutual aid wherein the worker and the members are engaged on the common enterprise of carrying out the group’s goals’ (Reid 1981: 191). Within this category fall humanistic approaches such as those of Glassman and Kates (1990), the social group work of Grace Coyle and the work of William Schwartz as his associates such as Lawrence Shulman (1979, 1999).

Group therapy, T-groups and encounter groups. There was a continuing growth in discussions that looked to the group as a key element in the therapeutic process – and that drew heavily upon central traditions of practice within psychotherapy e.g. psychoanalytic, Gestalt, cognitive-behavioural etc. Allied to this was material around family therapy (through which I have hardly bared to tread). ‘Classic’ work appeared from Wilfred Bion (1961) and some standard works from writers such as Irvin D. Yalom (1970). Another tradition of practice that could be said to fall in this strand is that of Training groups (T-groups). Here following on from Lewin’s interest in using small groups as training laboratories for teaching people interpersonal skills, Bradford’s work at the National Training Laboratory at Bethel, Maine; and the later development of sensitivity-training or encounter groups (e.g. Lieberman 1973, Rogers 1970) are examples of the use of groups for interpersonal learning.

Social goals group work . Here the focus is on dealing with ‘those problems that are related to the social order and the social value orientation in small groups’ (Reid 1981: 202). This long established set of traditions of practice is closely linked to community organization/community work. See, for example Mullender and Ward (1991) and Twelvetrees (1982, 1991, 2001, 2008).

In recent years there has been a significant development in the discussion of therapeutic traditions of group work, and some limited attention to group work within mainstream schooling. Unfortunately, much of the work within the social work arena has resulted in rather pedestrian ‘how-to-do-it’ texts – but there have been some good introductory texts examples over the last decade or so (e.g. Benson 2000; Brown 1993; Doel 1999).  Similarly, the quality of texts offered teachers and educators has been variable but one of the better examples is Jaques and Salmon (2006). Sadly, working with emergent groups, and with community groups has not had the attention it merits.

In this piece we have seen something of the development of thinking about group work – and explored some significant dimensions of practice. In many respects it raises as many questions as it answers.  For those concerned with informal education, social pedagogy and social action there is a considerable need to explore ways of working with groups that:

  • is educationally informed.
  • has a vision of the people as social beings.
  • is committed to democracy and social justice.
  • looks to the groups that arise as part of everyday living.

While there are fascinating examples of practice in this area, there is a huge gap in the literature.

Further reading and references

Reid, K. E. (1981) From Character Building to Social Treatment.  The history of the use of groups in social work , Westport, Connecticut .  Excellent discussion of the development of group work as a method within social work.

Benson, Jarlah. (2000) Working More Creatively with Groups . London: Routledge.

Bertcher, H. J. (1994) Group Participation. Techniques for leaders and members 2e. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage.

Bion, W. R. (1961) Experiences in Groups and other papers . London: Tavistock.

Bion, W. R. (1970) Attention and Interpretation . London: Tavistock.

Boyd, Neva (1935) ‘Group Work Experiments in State Institutions in Illinois,’ in Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1935. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brown, Alan (1992) Groupwork . London: Heinemann.

Brown, Rupert (1999) Group processes: Dynamics within and between groups 2e. Oxford: WileyBlackwell.

Butler, S. and Wintram, C. (1991) Feminist Groupwork. London: Sage.

Button, Leslie (1974) Developmental group work with adolescents . London: University of London Press.

Campbell, Douglas T. (1958) ‘Common fate, similarity, and other indices of aggregates of persons as social entities’, Behavioral Science 3: 14-25.

Cartwright, Dorwin and Alvin Zander (eds.) (1968) Group dynamics: research and theory 3e. London: Tavistock Publications.

Cooley, C. H. (1909) Social Organization. A study of the larger mind . New York: Scribners.

Coyle, G. L. (1930) Social Process in Organized Groups. New York: Richard R. Smith.

Coyle, G. L. (ed.) (1937) Studies in Group Behavior . New York: Harper and Brothers.

Coyle, G. L. (1947) Group Experience and Democratic Values. New York: Women’s Press

Coyle, G. L. (1948) Group Work and American Youth. A guide to the practice of leadership. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Crosby, Mary (2001) ‘Working with people as an informal educator’ in L. D. Richardson and M. Wolfe (eds.) (2001) Principles and Practice of Informal Education. Learning through life . London: RoutledgeFalmer

Davies, Bernard (1975) The Use of Groups in Social Work Practice . London:Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Doel, Mark (1999) The Essential Groupworker . London: Jessica Kingsley.

Follett, M. P. (1918) The New State – Group Organization, the Solution for Popular Government . New York: Longman, Green and Co.

Follett, M. P. (1924) Creative Experience . New York: Longman Green and Co (reprinted by Peter Owen in 1951).

Forsyth, Donelson R. (1990) Group Dynamics 2e. Pacific Grove CA.: Brooks Cole.

Forsyth, Donelson R. (2005) Group Dynamics 4e. Belmont CA.: Wadsworth Publishing.

Glasser, P., Sarri, R. and Vinter, R. (eds.) (1974) Individual Change Through Small Groups. New York: Free Press.

Glassman, Urania and Len Kates (1990) Group Work. A humanistic approach. Newbury Park, CA.: Sage.

Homans, George (1951) The Human Group . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Jaques, David and Salmon, Gilly (2006) Learning in Groups: A Handbook for Face-to-face and Online Environments 4e. London: Routledge.

Jeffs, Tony and Mark K. Smith (2005) Informal Education. Conversation, democracy and learning 3e. Nottingham: Educational Heretics Press.

Johnson, David W. and Frank P. Johnson (2003) Joining Together. Group theory and group skills . Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Klein, Alan (1953) Society, Democracy and the Group . New York: Woman’s Press.

Klein, Josephine (1956) The Study of Groups . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Klein, Josephine (1961) Working with Groups. The social psychology of discussion and decision . London: Hutchinson.

Konopka, G. (1949). Therapeutic Group Work with Children . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Konopka, K. (1954). Group Work in the Institution – A Modern Challenge . New York: Association Press.

Konopka, G. (1963) Social Group Work: A helping process. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall.

Kuenstler, Peter (ed.) (1955) Social Group Work in Britain . London: Faber and Faber.

Lewin, Kurt (1948) Resolving social conflicts; selected papers on group dynamics . Gertrude W. Lewin (ed.). New York: Harper & Row, 1948.

Lewin, Kurt (1951) Field theory in social science; selected theoretical papers . D. Cartwright (ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

Lieberman, Joshua (ed.) (1938) New Trends in Group Work . New York: Association Press.

Lieberman, M. A., Yalom, I. D. and Miles, M. B. (1973) Encounter Groups. First facts . New York: Basic Books.

Lindeman, E. C. (1924) Social Discovery. An approach to the study of functional groups. New York: Republic Publishing.

Lippitt, R. (1949) Training in Community Relations. A research exploration toward new group skills. New York: Harper.

Mayo, Elton (1933) The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization . New York: Macmillan.

McDermott, Fiona (2002) Inside Group Work. A guide to reflective practice . Crows nest NSW.: Allen and Unwin.

Miles, M. B. (1959, 1981) Learning to Work in Groups. A practical guide for members and trainers. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mills, Theodore M. (1967) The Sociology of Small Groups . Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Ministry of Health (1959) Report of the Working Party on Social Workers (The Younghusband Report). London: HMSO.

Mullender, A. and Ward, D. (1991) Self-Directed Groupwork. Users take action for empowerment. London: Whiting and Birch.

Palmer, Parker. J. (1998) The Courage to Teach. Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life , San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, Parker, J. (2000) Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation ,  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Papell, C and Rothman, B. (1966) ‘Social Groupwork models: possession and heritage’, Journal for Education for Social Work 2(2): 66-77.

Phillips, Helen U. (1957) Essentials of Social Group Work Skill . New York: Association Press.

Phillips, Margaret (1965) Small Social Groups in England . London: Methuen.

Reid, K. E. (1981a) ‘Formulation of a method, 1920-1936’ in From Character Building to Social Treatment.The history of the use of groups in social work, Westport, Connecticut. Available in the informal education archives: http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/reid_groupwork_formulation_method.htm .

Reid, K. E. (1981b) ‘Expansion and professionalism, 1937-1955’ in From Character Building to Social Treatment.  The history of the use of groups in social work , Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press. Available in the informal education archives : http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/reid_groupwork_expansion.htm .

Rogers, C. R. (1970) Encounter Groups . Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Schulman, L. (1979) The Skills of Helping Individuals and Groups. Itasca, Ill.:Peacock.

Schulman, L. (1999) The Skills of Helping Individuals and Groups. 2e. Itasca, Ill.:Peacock.

Schwartz, W. and Zalba, S. R. (eds.) (1971) The Practice of Group Work . New York: Columbia University Press.

Smith, Heather and Mark K Smith (2008) The Art of Helping Others . London: Jessica Kingsley.

Smith, Mark K. (1994) Local Education. Community, conversation, praxis. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Spencer, John C. (1964) Stress & Release in an Urban Estate. A study in action research . [Written with the collaboration of Joy Tuxford & Norman Dennis]. London: Tavistock.

Thrasher, F. (1927) The Gang . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Turner, J. C. with M. A. Hogg (1987) Rediscovering the social group : a self-categorization theory . Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Twelvetrees, A. (1982; 1991, 2001, 2008) Community Work.  London: Macmillan/Palgrave.

Westergaard, Jane (2009) Effective Group Work with Young People . Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Whyte, William Foote (1943, 1955, 1966, 1981, 1993) Street Corner Society: social structure of an Italian slum . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Williamson, Margaretta (1929) The Social Worker in Group Work. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Wilson, Gertrude (1941) Group work and case work, their relationship and practice. New York, Family Welfare Association of America.

Wilson, Gertrude and Ryland, Gladys (1949) Social group work practice; the creative use of the social process . Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Yalom, Irvin D. (1970, 1975, 1985, 1995) The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy . New York: Basic Books.

Yalom, I. D. and Lescz (2005) The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy 5e, New York: Basic Books.

Young, Kerry (2006) The Art of Youth Work . Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing.

Zander, Alvin (1985) The Purposes of Groups and Organizations . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Acknowledgement: The photograph – Group work – the relaxed way is by Jacob Bøtter ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakecaptive/47065774/ ) and is reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

How to cite this article : Smith, Mark K. (2008) ‘What is group work?’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . https://infed.org/mobi/group-work/ . Retrieved: insert date] .].

© Mark K Smith 1996, 2005, 2008

Last Updated on October 19, 2019 by infed.org

Working in a Group Essay

Introduction, advantages of working in a group, disadvantages of working in a group, reference list.

Group work has become very common not only in learning environment but also among workers in organizations. The common believe is that working in a group is more productive than working alone. Institutions emphasize on group and team work and invest heavily in team building among their members. Formation process of a group may determine its success. Tuckman & Jensen (1977) suggests that a successful group should be formed stepwise following stages like forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

Firstly, working in a group fosters an environment for learning since the individuals can learn from the experiences and expertise of each other. They learn different ways of approaching issues from his colleagues (Duch, 2000). Managers working in groups get more insight in solving problems as they interact with each other.

Another advantage is synergy creation i.e. group decisions tend to create synergy that combines and improves on the knowledge of the group to make decisions of high quality than the sum of individual decisions. This synergy results when each individual brings additional knowledge and skills to the decisions.

It also ensures that tasks are completed within the fastest time because duties are shared depending on the capability of a person in accomplishing a certain task (Traker, n. d.) As people possess different skills and capabilities, group work enhances the sharing of ideas and this has the effect of ensuring that best results are attained. Decisions made are also well thought out.

Creativity is enhanced as a result of working in groups because the diversity in culture, behaviours and attitude enables the members to become more innovative in dealing with difficult tasks.

Group work leads to the acceptance of decisions made as opposed to individual decisions because group decision making reflects acceptance. Group work also reduces the chances of intrapersonal conflicts i.e. conflicts that arise within an individual mainly about what is right and what is wrong (Belbin, 1981). Deciding the right things to do in certain situations as an individual can be quite stressful.

Group work ensures that members participate well unlike in working as individuals whereby employees can decide to sabotage work. An individual may decide not to work as effectively as would be considered reasonable and attempt not to get even the targets as opposed to a group situation (Traker, n. d.).

Also, the members of a group ensure that the resources are shared well and that there is no misuse of organizational resources for personal use.

Working in a group implies longer time frame than working as individuals because groups generally need more time to make decisions than individuals because a group has to exchange information among many individuals so as to obtain a consensus.

The decisions that are made while working in a group tends to be more extreme i.e. they are a bit riskier because no single person would be willing to shoulder the consequences of the decisions.

Also individual expertise is ignored while working in group and the group members may opt for group consensus instead.

Working in a group enhances decision making in an organization as opposed to working as an individual in which case there is information deficiency. The resources of the organization are shared and this minimizes the costs.

Belbin, M., 1981. Management Teams, Why they Succeed or Fail . Heinneman: London.

Duch, B., 2000. Working in Groups . USA: University of Delaware. Web.

Traker, H.B., n. d. Social Group Work: Principles and Practice . New York: Association Press N.Y.

Tuckman, B. W. & Jensen, M. A., 1977. Stages of small-group development revisited. Group Org. Studies, vol 2. pp. 419-27.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 30). Working in a Group. https://ivypanda.com/essays/working-in-a-group/

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  • v.17(1); Spring 2018

Kristy J. Wilson

† Biology Department, College of Arts and Sciences, Marian University, Indianapolis, IN 46222

Peggy Brickman

‡ Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

Cynthia J. Brame

§ Center for Teaching and Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203

This essay introduces an evidence-based teaching guide presenting research and resources related to group work. The guide provides links to key articles accompanied by summaries organized by teaching challenge and an instructor checklist. In addition to describing the guide, the article identifies areas for further research.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics faculty are increasingly incorporating both formal and informal group work in their courses. Implementing group work can be improved by an understanding of the extensive body of educational research studies on this topic. This essay describes an online, evidence-based teaching guide published by CBE—Life Sciences Education ( LSE ). The guide provides a tour of research studies and resources related to group work (including many articles from LSE ). Instructors who are new to group work, as well as instructors who have experienced difficulties in implementing group work, may value the condensed summaries of key research findings. These summaries are organized by teaching challenges, and actionable advice is provided in a checklist for instructors. Education researchers may value the inclusion of empirical studies, key reviews, and meta-analyses of group-work studies. In addition to describing key features of the guide, this essay also identifies areas in which further empirical studies are warranted.


Group work is one of the most widely used and deeply researched teaching approaches in the college classroom. Group work that promotes students’ collaboration to achieve shared learning goals has been shown to increase student achievement, persistence, and attitudes toward science (e.g., Springer et al ., 1999 ; Tanner et al ., 2003 ; Johnson and Johnson, 2009 ; Johnson et al ., 2014 ). It can provide opportunities for students to explain their reasoning to one another and to themselves, thereby promoting the cognitive restructuring that leads to learning (e.g., Kagan, 2014 ). It offers opportunities for formative assessment and feedback with peers to shape that learning (e.g., Johnson and Johnson, 2009 ). It also provides students with an avenue to incorporate diverse viewpoints and to develop communication and teamwork skills that are especially important in scientific collaboration and professional fields (e.g., Lamm et al. , 2012 ).

However, anyone who has worked in a group or used group work in courses has experienced challenges. These challenges, if left unchecked, can prevent effective learning and result in poor-quality products, unequal distribution of workload, and escalating conflict among team members (e.g., Feichtner and Davis, 1984 ). In this article, we describe an evidence-based teaching guide that we have created to condense, summarize, and provide actionable advice from research findings (including many articles from CBE—Life Sciences Education [ LSE ]). The guide can be found on the American Society for Cell Biology website ( https://lse.ascb.org/evidence -based-teaching-guides/group-work ), and a link will be listed on the LSE home page to direct users to a complete list of guides as this feature grows. We have included several useful features in the guide: a landing page that indicates starting points for instructors ( Figure 1 ), syntheses of observations from the literature ( Figure 2 ), summaries of and links to selected papers ( Figure 3 ), and an instructor checklist that details recommendations and points to consider. The guide is meant to aid instructors who are new to group work as well as instructors who have tried group work and experienced difficulties or want to improve their students’ experiences and outcomes. Researchers interested in exploring this area will also appreciate our efforts to identify empirical studies, informative reviews, and unanswered questions for which additional research is warranted. Some of the questions that we have considered in developing the guide are highlighted in the following sections.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
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Screenshot representing the landing page of the guide, which provides readers with an overview of choice points.

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Object name is cbe-17-fe1-g002.jpg

Screenshot showing an example description of overall conclusions that can be drawn about an element of group work, based on a synthesis of the literature.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is cbe-17-fe1-g003.jpg

Screenshots representing (A) summaries and links to important papers and (B) other resources.


The guide begins by separating findings, recommendations, and resources for formal, permanent groups from informal, temporary groups. During formal group work, students work in persistent groups for an extended period on a collaborative project, while in informal group work, ad hoc groups work together on an in-class problem or question for periods ranging from a few minutes to a full class session ( Johnson et al ., 2014 ). Formal group work requires more planning and coordination, but the benefits are that it can help students work together to reach important course objectives. Informal group work, on the other hand, is easy to incorporate into classes of any size and in any space. Informal group work can be an effective supplement to lecture, allowing learners to process information, and is often an essential part of, or used in conjunction with, classic active-learning techniques (e.g., Tanner et al. , 2003 ).

Three elements that are particularly important to consider in structuring formal group work are task interdependence, individual accountability, and reward interdependence ( Johnson and Johnson, 2009 ). Task interdependence refers to the degree to which group members must work together to complete the assigned task. For optimal group benefit and motivation, tasks should not be able to be completed by just one or two group members, but rather should require contributions from all group members (e.g., Gillies, 2013 ). Individual accountability, or the understanding that group members will be responsible for the work they specifically contribute, reduces social free-riding in group settings and encourages members to contribute. Reward interdependence can be accomplished through several mechanisms, including shared grades, for which individual students earn a final grade that relies on scores earned by their team members on a test or assignment, or certificates of recognition that students can earn if their average team scores on quizzes or other individual assignments exceed a pre-established criterion ( Serrano and Pons, 2007 ).

Notably, the very distinction between the types of group work points to an unanswered research question:

Are there specific types of outcomes that are better met with informal group work rather than formal group work, or vice versa?


When planning formal group work, the literature suggests that instructors should form small groups (typically three to five students), considering student characteristics that can contribute to effective group processes and performance (e.g., Treen et al. , 2016 ; and other references within the Group Size section of the guide). Generally, groups that are gender balanced, are ethnically diverse, and have members with different problem-solving approaches have been shown to exhibit enhanced collaboration (see references within the Group Composition section of the guide). Within these generic observations, however, there are a number of unanswered questions for which further research is needed:

  • What are the different impacts for ethnic majority and minority students in ethnically diverse groups? If so, what are they, and why do they occur?
  • Does context determine effective gender composition for groups? If so, is it a generalizable context (e.g., physics groups work best with one composition, while biology groups work best with another composition)? Alternatively, does the effectiveness of different group gender compositions depend on the measure being used (e.g., creativity of final product, effectiveness of group communication)? Are there task features or group structures that can mitigate disadvantages of particular gender mixes?
  • The data on academic performance as a diversity factor also do not point to a single conclusion. What features of group work lead to benefits for high-, mid-, or low-performing students? Will these features be combined to benefit mixed-ability groups? Do homogeneous or heterogeneous groups provide a greater advantage?
  • What are effective steps to take to support students with different disabilities while they participate in group work?


There are a number of common problems that students and instructors experience when involved in group work. The most commonly reported problem is uneven workload (free-riding or overbearing students). However, groups also experience other types of social conflict and lack of cohesion that can result in production of “Frankenstein products” that are a conglomeration of individual student efforts without integration and synthesis of ideas. There are several practices and resources that can help ensure that groups function more effectively. Students report greater satisfaction with group work if the instructor has implemented methods to monitor and manage groups ( Chapman and Van Auken, 2001 ; and other references within Setting Group Norms ). Suggested methods include providing an opportunity for students to discuss their expectations for group work and setting group norms. For group work that spans multiple days or weeks, providing opportunities for identifying individual effort and allowing students to evaluate their peers can allow for ongoing adjustments to group dynamics. Assigning specific roles to students within groups can emphasize interdependence, and prompting students to provide elaborated explanations during discussions can help promote learning gains ( Gillies, 2013 ). Even with these recommendations, there are many unanswered questions.

  • Findings from research studies on peer evaluation have clearly identified several methods to identify dysfunctional groups. What are the potential solutions to address dysfunctional groups and under what conditions are these solutions effective? When is it more effective to disband a dysfunctional group rather than enforce mediation?
  • What is the best method to deal with persistent free-riders?


We describe a number of formalized group-work pedagogies with defined criteria and tasks that instructors can consider. These include problem-based learning, team-based learning, process-oriented guided inquiry learning, case-based learning, and peer-led team learning, all of which have descriptions and biology-relevant papers linked within the Formalized Pedagogies section of the guide. Instructors considering these approaches should consider forming a team of instructors, administrators, and/or staff to address the attendant time and resource needs. For any group task, it is important to consider why group work is being used in a particular situation and how it meets the instructor’s learning goals for students. To help promote student buy-in and student learning, these goals should be shared with students, along with an explanation of how the group work aligns with these goals.

Effective group tasks should challenge groups to solve highly complex or ill-structured problems that require the collaboration of the group to solve (e.g., Scager et al. , 2016 ; and other references within the Task Features section). In addition, tasks that engage student interest, such as by using contemporary issues relevant to students’ lives and generating products for an audience outside the classroom, can increase students’ motivation (e.g., Schmidt et al. , 2011 ). With this general recommendation in mind, however, there are a number of unanswered questions:

  • Typically, a task’s relevance to students’ lives increases task value and thus student motivation. What are the best ways to structure relevant tasks in the biology classroom? Do these features differ by major or level of student?
  • Does a students-as-producers approach, wherein students generate new knowledge for an external audience, impact motivation for all students or only some? Does the relative size of the product/student contribution matter (e.g., one figure on a poster vs. entire infographic for congressional representative)?
  • How do different group tasks or task instructions affect cognitive development of knowledge structures and their use? What tasks support development of declarative knowledge (what), procedural knowledge (how), and conceptual knowledge (when/why)?
  • Students lie at various places along the novice–expert continuum. How do we match scaffolding to student needs?


We finish this summary to our guide by cautioning that group work is not a panacea for learning. A great deal of research has defined the type of tasks for which group work is more effective than individual learning. Groups of students show greater gains than individual students for tasks that are complex and ill-­defined with multiple possible correct answers ( Kirschner et al. , 2011 ), but for simpler tasks that require recall, definitions, or looking up information, students exhibit greater gains when they work on their own. Thus, maximizing the benefits of group work requires that instructors attend to the learning goals they want their students to attain and, if applicable, the group-work structures that they put in place to help the students reach those goals.


We thank William Pierce and Thea Clarke for their efforts in producing the Evidence-Based Teaching Guides website and the American Society for Cell Biology for hosting the site.

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  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

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Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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group work essay introduction

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

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group work essay introduction

As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

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This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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Introduction to Group Work

Student-based group work (also known as team work) has become an integral part of studying at UTS. This mode of teaching has primarily arisen in an attempt to capture many of the benefits associated with collaborative activities (namely peer learning and graduate attribute development).

While efforts have be made to embrace group-based learning at UTS, students' reaction to these efforts appear somewhat mixed. Recent data collected from a number of sources at UTS (eg. Planning & Quality Unit, Institute for Interactive Media and Learning, UTS BELL Program), suggests that students have strong opinions (both positive and negative) associated with group work.

From a positive perspective, students report enjoying the social aspect of group work (eg. making new friends and networking) and the benefits deriving from group synergy (eg. sharing workloads). Despite recognising these positive aspects, most students at UTS hold an overall negative attitude towards group work. This is particularly so for collaborative activities that are formally assessed. Students report that their dissatisfaction with group work stems mainly from:

  • the tasks set for group work (ie. not being suitable for group work)
  • the selection of group members
  • the inability to manage each other (due to equal status)
  • the short time frames associated with group assignments
  • the disproportionate investment of time needed to earn a good mark compared with an individual task
  • the much greater risk level associated with group work (compared to an individual task)

This research also suggests that this overall negative attitude towards group work originates from a number of key problems faced by students whilst participating in group work. These are:

  • organising and running group meetings
  • making decisions together
  • allocating tasks to group members
  • dealing with group loafers
  • dealing with over domineering group members
  • resolving conflicts (both minor and major) within the group

How can we help students work in groups?

In recent years, many efforts have been made to enhance the functioning of student groups and to improve the overall attitude students hold toward group work. Whilst many of the initiatives have been highly successful, their dissemination to the broader academic community has been difficult. This is mainly due to the trend of reporting teaching and learning innovations at the disciplinary level. This means that many of the "best practices" developed and applied in one faculty may never be known by those in other faculties even though they may be applicable and capable of enhancing the subject's teaching and learning objectives.

In an attempt to address this concern (and the many problems associated with group work raised earlier), the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning (IML) has produced this Resource Kit devoted to the topic of student-based group work. This Kit has been derived from multiple disciplines and covers a range of "best practice" teaching and learning techniques devoted to improving group work for students.

This Kit is divided into seven units: Unit 1: Designing Group Assignments Unit 2: Preparing Students for Group Work Unit 3: Forming Effective Groups Unit 4: Getting Groups Started Unit 5: Monitoring Groups Unit 6: Assessing Groups Unit 7: Helping Students Reflect on their Group Experience

Within these units you will find a range of techniques and tips which may be useful for your own group-based teaching. This Kit also contains a number of group exercises to run with students and a few "must read" articles which can be found in the appendices.

Presently, the content of this Resource Kit focuses on student groups in a face-to-face environment who are working together on a collaborative assessment task (eg. group assignment). However much of this content is also relevant to groups operating on-line, provided that there is some face-to-face group interaction (eg. in the formation stage, if groups have face-to-face meetings).

UTS acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the Boorooberongal people of the Dharug Nation, the Bidiagal people and the Gamaygal people, upon whose ancestral lands our university stands. We would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.

group work essay introduction

Group Work and Teamwork and Its Effectiveness


Group work is the art of working together in a group so as to achieve unity goals, or to maximize each others learning in the case of students. The instructional use of groups among students to maximize learning among students is referred to as cooperative learning (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991). In this type of learning, students can work together and benefit from each others learning in skill and work or any other benefits. In this type of learning, positive interdependence is also necessary to ensure that every member cooperates and participates and that all are accountable for the final results through group and individual accountability. A way to ensure this is by having a learning process that is very well structured and organized. Forms of implementing cooperative learning in schools emerge as informal and formal corporative groups. In order to ensure achieving the desired results in a proper manner, the teacher must be directly and indirectly involved in the formulation of the group, passing of the necessary knowledge, advising and intervening where necessary, monitoring and evaluating individual and group performance. This paper analyzes group work by mainly focusing on the question of whether it is effective in the learning environment. The research will analyze various aspects of teamwork and types of group organization and how it can be achieved best for the benefit of the learners.

Problem Statement

While group work is important in enhancing learning amongst students through learning from each other, independence amongst the learners is important so as to foster good and improved results through competition. Lax among students and group members can result from group work if no proper measures are put in place. Group working can neither be eliminated as merely unnecessary nor can it be implemented without necessary measures that will ensure that it achieves the best results. It is now evident that team learning and teamwork are important in the organizational world of business, politics, the army, teaching, and other sectors. Fostering team learning helps achieve important goals where unhealthy competition may arise, or even where competition cannot achieve good or desired results. Emphasizing group work is an important step towards helping individuals learn together and from one another both for present needs and for future tasks in leadership and other positions, but may sometimes result in lax situations where some individuals work for others and others only wait for the results. This means that group work must be controlled or implemented in a certain way in order to achieve the best results.

Research Questions

Historically, man has worked together in groups to achieve quantity production, increase efficiency, enjoy mutual contact and social cooperation, promote peace and culture, fight for his rights, and achieve what individuals cannot achieve easily or at all on their own. Group work mostly referred to as teamwork, holds a very high potential for carrying out various tasks, whether in the business arena, political, education or military, or any other type of assignment. The importance of independence that is instilled in the learning systems in this education system cannot be underestimated even in the strength of teamwork. Independence will ensure that the best students are rewarded and recognized in society and this is one way of encouraging personal hard work and diligence. The result of emphasizing individualism and independence amongst people is that it encourages competition which is necessary for achieving good and improved results within that system. Education is a means of preparing students for the tasks ahead; in the military, business, teaching, and leadership. These organizations require that teamwork be a constituent of the whole structure. How, and to what extent does group work help learning? Does it help after all in the learning system to emphasize group or teamwork as a means of preparing students for future tasks?

Most of the current educational systems emphasize this important aspect. Is it possible to merge independence and teamwork in the learning environment? How best can they be merged if this is possible? While the structure of academic learning emphasizes the importance of the two, what does teamwork contribute to learning?

Literature Review

Over the last 90 years, research has compared the effectiveness of individualistic, competitive, and cooperative efforts through experimental and correlational studies. It would be expected according to Smith (1995) that these studies would show the benefits of cooperative learning groups; ease of remembrance, more learning, and a better understanding of the learning material; and the learners feeling better of themselves and their colleagues. In addition, the students become socially competent, have committed and positive peer relationships, become highly psychologically healthy and achieve increased productivity.

Group participation in the learning process through solving problems in a group, talking through learning material together, and working together has been attached to benefits which include boosting student participation that improves critical thinking and problem solving (McKeachie, et a,., 1986). In addition, group work can help students stick to and enjoy learning through social networking and encouraging participation of the students in the learning process. The two major reasons identified as causing dropouts from schools are the failure of the victims to establishing a social network and being unable to participate in classroom learning according to Tinto (1994) and Smith (1995). Therefore, group work may foster not only learning but also help students stay at school. Smith adds that peer relationships have been shown by research and practitioners to be important in contributing to success at school whereas failure results from the alienation and isolating of students.

Cooperative learning has been encouraged in the traditional as well as the modern learning classes through different types of cooperative learning. These include formal and informal methods. Base groups are long-term based and ensure that support necessary for the individual members to succeed in course or college is provided. Formal cooperative learning groups may be necessary where there is a need to master the concept and procedural contents in the classroom while informal cooperative learning groups may last from few minutes to one class period and help boost understanding.


The research uses previously conducted research studies to build consensus on the need for group work, the importance of accomplishing assignments through group work, the disadvantages of group work, and how best results can be achieved or situations be improved to ensure proper groups are formulated and structured. This research uses secondary sources such as books on the subject of group work and related subjects such as cooperative learning and team learning.

In order to prove whether group work is helpful, the student will carry out a research study on a group of thirty students from the school who will fill in the questionnaires to identify the causes, effects, and results of group work on individual and group learning. The student will also be required to fill in questions, which will be used to access the interest of individuals for groups, teacher contribution, and assistance.

Statistical methods will be used to analyze the collective data, and the quantitive and qualitative approaches will also be used to link factors such as working in groups and the student interest for group work. The analysis will seek to determine whether group work is still necessary for achieving future team learning and acting skills based on the students’ past experiences with groups and their expectations. The study analysis will also seek to access the contribution of group work in learning by tracking group results for the participants. The study will conclude how best group work can be ensured without denying the students the necessary skills to achieve interdependence, and how best groups should be structured to achieve the desired results.

Discussion of possible findings

Group work is very essential in achieving learning. The philosophy of group work has widely been exploited in all areas for different purposes. In learning, group work can assist students through establishing social networking, an easier and better understanding of the contents, taking in more content, creative and general thinking among other ways. The value of the group depends on the individual contribution, skills of the contributors (for example the ability to socially network with each other), the contribution of the teacher and/or the instructor, the type of group itself among other things. Group work can either be helpful or destructive based on the final results. While team learning skills in school require being natural for future use, there is a need to make sure that the independence of students is not ignored in the group work. This can be achieved through personal evaluation for example administering individual examinations, oral tests and requiring that the individual students present answers for assigned questions.

The base group refers to a type of group organization that is long-term and staying throughout the course being learned or even longer. The group is aimed at helping individual members by personalizing the required work and course experiences. Members exchange information such as their phone numbers to contact one another for discussions, and the work is preserved in group folders.

Informal cooperative learning groups are for a short period of time, disorganized, and used to help a student focus his or her attention on the material being taught by the teacher or lecturer. In this type, the lecturer would emphasize the formation of groups during the lecture or learning period, after or before the learning period. In addition, they may be used to set right the learning conditions or environment, help the students to have a cognitive focus on the learning material, signify the end of a learning class or session, and prepare the learning material in advance.

Formal cooperate learning groups have the highest potential to cause change amongst students but are the most difficult to implement.

Although teamwork can improve learning and the quality of learning in the classroom, another type of learning can deteriorate the situation by causing disharmony, and dissatisfaction amongst the learners (Smith, 1995). Therefore it is necessary to be sure what group type is being implemented in the classroom. The following are the various types of groups that can be implemented in the learning environment;

Pseudo-Learning Groups

This is a situation where students do not want to work in groups although they are placed in them. In this case, students want to continue competing with their colleagues and view each other as competitors who must be defeated. Thus, as a result, they may hide information from one another, mislead, confuse or hinder one another in learning. Students may do this because they continue to feel that they will be ranked according to the individual’s contribution and not as a group. This type must be discouraged because students would even do better while alone (Smith, 1995).

Cooperative Learning Groups

The students are in this case provided with the complexity of the task and the goal of maximizing the learning for all members motivates them to achieve results that exceed their possible individual achievements. The individuals participate to achieve group results, and individual together with group accountability for high-quality results exists among the group members. The group is taught teamwork and building skills necessary for their success, work together face to face to achieve certain things and they are able to analyze the effectiveness of the group. Emphasis is laid on the need to continue improving quality of teamwork processes and quality of learning.

High-Performance Cooperative Learning Group

In this model, students demonstrate high level of commitment and achieve better results than the cooperative learning model. Emotional attachment, respect, and trust among the members may be evident in addition to a mutual concern for one another’s growth and support (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Most groups do not grow to this level (Smith, 1995).

It is important to note that better results are out of sacrifice or hard work to form a cooperative learning group that is structured well. A group theta is poorly structured will achieve poorer results. In order to achieve positive independence, students must understand that success or failure will result from cooperate work and each should demonstrate role interdependence through fulfilling the assigned responsibilities. In addition, the instructors must foster goal interdependence within the student groups through encouraging them to reaching an agreement on the strategies to be used for all problems and agree on the solution. The group should also foster face-to-face promotive interaction which encourages passing knowledge amongst the members through oral teaching and explanation on experience on solving problems, group strategies to achieve the ends, past and present learning and should discourage silent participation where students do not contribute or get involved (Smith, 1995). Although fostering cooperation is important, the instructor must let the students be individually responsible and accountable through accomplishing their part. Students need to be assessed for example through individual examination and individual presentation of an answer to a query, so that independence cannot be dissolved in the group work. Oral examinations also may be administered to access an individual student in group work. In order to achieve good results in team work, students need to be taught team work skills in a purposeful and precise manner in which academic skills are taught, which will enable them to accomplish academic goals. These skills include conflict management, decision-making, leadership, communication and building of trust amongst each other. Students should also be able to access and monitor their progress, identify helpful or unhelpful tasks, adjust or change what is necessary, and strategize on how best they can achieve results (Smith, 1995). The instructor or the teacher should realize that they need to perform an important role to achieve good results from group work and therefore act to: define and specify the objectives needed to be achieved for every lesson or work; make instructional decisions as to what method to employ to form a group, group duration, group membership and size, roles amongst members, among other tasks; evaluate performance of the group using a criteria-referenced approach (Smith, 1995); monitor the whole process and assists where needed; and perform his or her duties in passing on the necessary knowledge concepts and strategies, foster individual accountability, specify positive interdependence, define and explain the assignment, among other tasks to assists the students accomplish the required.

Identified flaws in the action research

The following problems would be expected in the research study;

  • Inconsistency in linkages between data concerning individual student performance and group work performance and drawing the lines between the two
  • Lack of clear method of measuring the individual contribution while in a group

Student surveys and teacher observations

This section will present the questionnaires and other additional materials to be used in the actual studies. The questionnaires reflect the number of participants in the study and feature the actual questions to be used in this study. In this case it will present the questionnaires to be formulated by the student and passed to the study participants. The number of participants will be 30 students. Other materials attached to this section will include materials that the teacher used to assess the students while in the group (sample) and any other material that the student collects during the actual study that is essential for evidence for the topic in question.

References and Bibliography

Johnson, David W., Johnson, Roger T., and Smith, Karl A. (1991). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company

Johnson, David W., Johnson, Roger T., and Smith, Karl A. (1991). Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity. ASHE-ERIC Report on Higher Education . Washington, DC: The George Washington University

Johnson, David W., Johnson, Roger T. (1989). Cooperation and competition: Theory and research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company

Katzenbach, Jon R. and Smith, Douglas K. (1993). The discipline of teams. Harvard Business Review, 71(2), 111-120

Katzenbach, Jon R. & Smith, Douglas K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press

McKeachie, Wilbert; Pintrich, Paul; Yi-Guang, Lin; and Smith, David. 1986. Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of the research literature. Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan

Smith, Karl A., and Starfield, Anthony M. 1993. Building models to solve problems. In J.H. Clarke & A.W. Biddle, (Eds.). Teaching critical thinking: Reports from across the curriculum . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Smith Karl. CooperativeLearning: Effective Teamwork for Engineering Classrooms. 1995. IEEE Education Society/ASEE Electrical Engineering Division Newsletter. Web.

Starfield, Anthony M., Smith, Karl A., and Bleloch, Andrew L. 1994. How to model it: Problem solving for the computer age. Edina, MN: Burgess International Group, Inc

Tinto, Vincent. 1994. Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Treisman, U. 1992. Studying students studying calculus: A look at the lives of minority mathematics students in college. College Mathematics Journal . 23(5), 362-372.

Tribus, Myron. (1992). Total quality management in schools of business and engineering. In Harry V. Roberts (Ed .) Academic initiatives in total quality for higher education . Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press

Woods, Donald R. (1994). Problem-based learning: How to gain the most from PBL. Waterdown, Ontario: Donald R. Woods.

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Introduction to Group Work, Research Paper Example

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Group Work, theory and practice can be used in many settings but has specific applicability in the areas of psychotherapy. Here the theory is used in order to treat a range of psychological problems. This approach is widely used in the treatment of those suffering with addiction problems like that of alcohol or substance abuse. The ability to freely discuss individual problems within a group setting assists in breaking down inhibitions and gaining recognition of the problem / illness that needs to be addressed. (Corey, M. 2010)

The Process of Group Therapy

The group therapeutic approach has a number of distinct advantages for the patients receiving this form of treatment. Very often patients have a sense of denial but need the trust and acceptance of a peer group that appreciate and understand their problems. It is the fear of being judged and condemned by others as opposed to that of acceptance and understanding. This is the first step towards remediation and treatment of the illness. (Fehr, S.2003).

The evidence pointing towards alcoholism as a disease has resulted in a number of prescribed treatment options. The behavioural conditions of alcoholism has added some doubt in the disease theory i.e. the ability of alcoholics to abstain, revert to moderate drinking and then excessive drinking creating a vicious cycle of events. This pointing towards the concept of addiction like drugs. Psychologists and Sociologists both consider that far too great an emphasis is placed upon the plight of the committed alcoholic (individual) as opposed to having a national policy geared more towards the vast majority of people suffering with drinking problems.

Psychological Theories – in Group Work Setting

The Social Learning Theory – SLT is a general theory of behaviour in psychology and examines principles of learning within the context of cognitive psychology. In particular how an individual’s personality will develop from social context and learning. The theory looks at positive and negative reinforcement or reward and punishment in the withdrawal of alcoholism. The example below illustrates two different consequences that may result from drinking in different settings, despite behaviour being relatively consistent

Expectancy Theory – This approach has surfaced in order to address a wide range of alcohol problems. This theory is based upon the beliefs that a person holds on the views of life. For example: If I go into a pub I will almost certainly drink beer. Hence looking at certain behavioural patterns you can make course corrections, e.g. don’t go into the Pub! Hence as opposed to making drink the focal point an alternate approach would be to address the object of that desire i.e. stays away from Pubs! This focuses the brain more on root cause as opposed to the certainty of an event that would take place following a pre-defined course of action.

Cognitive Theory – This theory relates to health communication i.e. the cognitive, emotional aspects and aspects of behaviour for understanding behavioural change.

Corey, M. C. (2010). Groups: Process and Practice (8th ed). In M. C. Corey, Groups: Process and Practice (8th ed) (pp. 4-8). Belmont CA: Cengage Learning.

Fehr, S. S. (2003). Introduction to group therapy a practical guide. In S. S. Fehr, Introduction to group therapy a practical guide (pp. 31-40). New York: Haworth Press.

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What is Group Work and What is It?

What is Group Work and What is It?

Introduction  Group work is usually a group of up to four or six students. Each group is set to work together either by their tutors or self-selecting. Group work is for various learning purposes either set by tutors or students. It gives students the opportunity to share ideas, resources, and ability. Group work gives opportunities for students to get to know each other and form working relationships to gain and achieve a better understanding of particular group assignment work that can develop their skills, such as communication, listening, and team working skills.

The motive of group work is to improve both the learning achievement and learning efficiency of individual students by keeping learning active, helping students to develop their critical thinking, progress their greater responsibility for their learning. Moses, John and Bell, Bob (1995 p88) suggested that group work allows students and each individual to “recognise each others strengths and weakness. ” Why work in a group?

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Jaques, D (1991, p9) said, “Teaching and learning in small groups has a valuable part to play in the all-round education of students. It allows them to negotiate meanings, to express themselves in the language of the subject, and to establish a more intimate contact with academic staff than more formal methods permit. ” In other words, group work can be very exciting and fun to engage in activities, it is design to reduce the workload and give students the opportunity to share their workload rather than the doing it all alone.

There are many aims and reasons for working in a group, one of the aims is to emphasise on the topic or assignment set, to give students the opportunity to discuss their views and be able to share their own experiences, beliefs, and what is valued to them. Group work is a valuable method of learning because goals are set to accomplish. With fair tasks divided amongst them, support from one another with decision-making, ideas, and communication. People can learn to agree and disagree in groups; they can expand their critical thinking, creative knowledge and form independent decision.

The advantage and disadvantage of group work The advantages in a group task are that students are set to carry out responsibilities to achieve their work. In a group, everyone gets to learn not just from the tutor but also from other students to give everyone the opportunity to share and discuss their work for support and feedback to avoid disagreements and disappointments before meeting the deadline. The disadvantages can be when each individual feels that they have been set with tasks that are more difficult or when individuals do not pull their own weight to research and learn.

When members of the group do not stay on track and are just passengers that do not stay around or bully other team members, it does not only intimidate the person but puts the group under pressure and make the group work harder to accomplish. Problems in the group Problems in the group can be very common and should be dealt within the group. Even though common problems are usually dealt amongst the group as mature students sometimes the lack of communication and understanding can lead to an uncomfortable working group and low insignificant marks.

Therefore, it is important that in a group students know how to put aside feelings and differences that they may have against each other so they can concentrate on the work set and the reason for the work being set. Tutors do not get involved in common, problems but it has been known that in rare cases when the students are no longer being professional regarding their work and are putting other students’ life at risk tutors then have to take certain measures to prevent the problem from going further.

Brown, Sally (March 12 1999. ) Other common problems depend on the type of group, each individual’s background, critical thinking, beliefs, behaviour, attitude and so on. Conclusion The conclusion of this research is that “Learning in groups, rather than lectures or presentations, allows students to have greater scope to negotiate meaning and express themselves and their own ideas. It also helps them to establish far more effective relationships, not only with their tutors and trainers but with each other. (Routledge, 21st Decemeber2006. ) Making group work an effective way of learning. To help students understand the reason of the group work exercise and the different roles that group members can have by their strength and weakness. The conclusion is that group work does not only provide students with effective and collaborative learning abilities but also the knowledge and preparation of real job employment requirements needed in every job.

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leadership journey essay

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My Leadership Journey by Gabrielle

Gabrielleof St. Bonaventure's entry into Varsity Tutor's March 2015 scholarship contest

My Leadership Journey by Gabrielle - March 2015 Scholarship Essay

Leadership is an important skill one must possess for future success in any field. Leadership is not one skill set but a categorization of many. Leadership can only be achieved if you have people willing to follow you. There are many important characteristics you must possess to be a successful leader. Leadership is an important component of success because of the many traits it contains.

High School and college have both seemed to be overwhelmingly pushing for students to participate in leadership programs. I was hesitant at first, wondering what the purpose was in leadership programs, I had always thought of leadership as an innate characteristic. I considered leadership to be in the same category as kind, compassionate, trustworthy, and many others, all of which I categorize as being personal characteristics one possesses without any lessons or workshops (all of which are important in being a good leader). Looking back on my decision to join Star Leadership in High School, a program accompanied by seminars and a final leadership project, I am glad that I decided to take it. Yes, I still do believe that leadership is an innate characteristic but I believe it to be one that we all have and that we are all capable of improving upon. Star Leadership taught me the importance of this leadership awakening and I have continued to grow upon this in college through similar programs with different names such as the Freshman Leadership Program. College success spans from leadership roles on campus, in your friend groups, and in your own life. You cannot succeed in college by simply blending into the background. College success is leadership success.

I think leadership skills are life skills. They are skills that help you work with people, work with one another and learn more about yourself. Leadership is people skills, individual hard work, and personal goals of bettering yourself. Leadership isn’t a term it is an entire category of characteristics all of which I hope to improve upon to reach my highest level of success. Because to me leadership, a massive category of other traits and skills, is synonymous to success.

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My Leadership Experience and The Lessons I Learned

  • Categories: Life Changing Experience Personal Experience

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Published: Sep 12, 2023

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leadership journey essay

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My Leadership Journey Essay

My journey as a leader has been characterized by my innate ability to recognize needs, accept responsibilities, and wield influence that inspires a positive change. One of my most significant experiences as a leader came after I was unanimously elected on the 20th of March, 2018 as the chairman of my department’s maiden homecoming committee. I was mandated to organize the homecoming within three months. At first, I felt it was impossible because the funds were not available, but I understood the aim of the homecoming which was to inspire fellow undergraduates and also to raise money to buy about ten microscopes for the department. To achieve this dream, I inaugurated a team of 10 committee members, instituted a sub-committee responsible for fundraising, and delegated roles to each member of the committee. I also sent out invitations to my school’s vice-chancellor, head of the department, members of staff, and departmental alumni. I was able to raise the money for the organization of the homecoming through the funds pulled together by students. On the day of the homecoming, the turnout from students and alumni was massive, though the vice-chancellor could not make it he was represented by the deputy vice-chancellor for administration. Through donations made by the alumni and other invitees, I was able to purchase ten new electrical microscopes for the department which was presented to the head of the department by the departmental students’ president. It was an experience that taught me never to give up until I have exhausted all my options.

My Leadership Journey Essay

Leadership is a journey of tackling new challenges after my significant leadership role as an undergraduate in 2018 I faced stiffer challenges in august 2019 when I accepted the position of the Secretary of a youth-based community development service group called the National Youth Service Corps-Sustainable Development Goals (NYSC-SDGs). The group is focused on helping to achieve the 17 SDGs in Nigeria. As a way of contributing to goals, I convinced my fellow excos that we should plant trees to support climate action and also reduce erosion in Lagos state. As a plant breeding and climate action enthusiast, I was naturally made the project manager so, I researched on the kind of trees that will serve the purpose of climate action and beautification and will also grow fast for this I also consulted Mr Oladele Sipasi the CEO of Protect-Ozone whom I met when he came to train my cohort of SDGs corps members at the NYSC camp. Mr Sipasi suggested the Masquerade tree and also donated about 50 of them to us. Thanks to other free-will donors I was able to provide a total of 100 trees which were planted by two teams of about three corps members at the National Orthopedic Hospital and the NYSC State secretariat both in Lagos. 

The tree project and my interactions with a selfless leader inspired me to become a volunteer tutor and a development knowledge facilitator at Eric Moore Senior high school, Lagos between April 2019 to March 2020. At this school, I noticed that the students had a poor attitude to their studies, and this was caused by the nonchalant attitude to work from the teachers. This greatly disturbed me so; I challenged myself to rekindle their zeal in school and not see school as scam as they will usually call it. To achieve my goal, I formed a coalition with five corps members from the science, social science, and the academic arts fields with their help I organized after school classes for students in core subjects; I also established a student’s SDGs club with the permission of the school’s administration. It was not a comfortable experience at the beginning, but the mere taught of seeing teenagers join in the fight to make Nigeria a better place kept me inspired and I am proud to say that I reignited the academic interests of over 300 students and established a club which is waxing stronger till date with over 100 students and two staff members.

As a Chevening scholar, I will be a pillar and a nexus for the UK to form collaborations with farming communities in Nigeria to help fight hunger and poverty within the country.

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leadership journey essay

  • May 5, 2022

My Leadership Journey

Being a leader needs resilience, persistence, self-confidence and support. Being a leader and a woman adds significant gender bias challenges. But these barriers can be a spur to skills development, career excellence and advancement. Here Christalla Jamil, Chief Executive Officer of London Diocesan Board for Schools Academies Trust, explains what she has learnt in her journey from estate agent to boss of an organisation offering ‘Excellence and equity for all children in a Christian context’ .

I became a teacher rather late in life (see ‘My leadership journey summary’) having focused on my family for the first few years of married life. I worked as an estate agent and contributed to a variety of charities, which I still do. I have always wanted to be a leader, though.

leadership journey essay

Initially, I became the leader of my class. A variety of opportunities fell in my path and I scooped up every single one!

‘When opportunities present themselves, seize the moment’ be #strong #10%Braver #BecomeTheQueenofOpportunity !

I have always been passionate about teaching and inspiring young people to discover the world and their place in it. At its best, high-quality teaching empowers children to achieve their full potential and results in citizens with a positive contribution for our global future. All of this can be achieved through high expectations, the development of a growth mindset and creating a culture of responsibility and justice for the entire school community.

My goal as both teacher and leader is to foster an environment where learning for all pupils, regardless of their needs, ethnicity, culture, religion or background, is a daily adventure to be delighted in, and where the relationship with self, peers, the school community and wider society are held in high regard. This is what has led me ultimately to becoming a CEO: to make the biggest impact, and to transform education, helping children achieve what they want to achieve and inspiring them to do things they never thought they could do.

‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

Mahatma Ghandi

leadership journey essay

Top tips for successful leadership

In order to recruit and retain I have learnt how to create a culture of wellbeing; this has taken time. I have made mistakes along the way and hope that now I have finally got it right. Relationships, and getting them right, are pivotal in leadership (I think!).

I love to work with people who share and understand my vision for our schools; people whose performance defines ability and expertise. It is a parameter I keep in mind to identify a leader while looking beyond performance. I also look for aptitude, the desire to grow and overall potential. I look for people who make things happen, who are decision-makers, who have an identity. I identify those who are accountable, even when mistakes happen. Particularly important for teachers is that they are in a ‘safe place’ where they won’t be made accountable for taking risks to innovate if they don’t pay off. They must be able to empathise and have emotional intelligence too. Communication is key, so are articulation and courage.

I strongly believe that values must be reflected in the way we do things. Living them out is as applicable to all staff as it is to all the children. Mine are about the principles or moral standards which I feel are important in life: compassion, perseverance, forgiveness, courage, friendship and … having a sense of humour! I strive to create equitable communities where excellence is a collective goal and everyone works hard to eradicate bias.

‘Be authentic!’

As a leader, it is vital to love out both individual values and the collective values of the school consistently. To do so requires self-control, resilience and self-regulation. Additionally, leaders have to recognise that we can no longer be all things to all people. Instead, we need to focus on ever-present challenges and priorities, recognising when transformational thinking is required then thinking more about how we can do things differently and more intelligently. For instance:

· the emphasis on developing the whole child

· ensuring consistently high-quality teaching and learning

· ensuring all pupils make good or better progress

· closing the gap

· striving to build capacity and sustainability

· building a culture of teamwork and collective accountability

· ensuring high levels of staff satisfaction and fulfilment

· strengthening partnerships.

‘Less is more. Focus on a few things and do them well.’

leadership journey essay


From my own experience I am able to see that women frequently show empathy as a strength, demonstrate strong ability in conflict management, show skills in influence, and have a sense of self-awareness, which is important for excellent leadership.

Improving self-awareness requires getting some source of credible feedback, and being open to that feedback.

Developing self-awareness also takes reflection. It is important to set aside time every week to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how we can react differently in the future.

Self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. A leader must know herself – her abilities, her shortcomings, and her opportunities for growth in order to be able to provide direction, guidance and inspiration to others.

Leadership demands strong interpersonal skills. We need to gain experiences so that we grow in courage. One way of achieving this is to share your story, share our experiences to empower and support others.

‘You cannot do it alone. You need a team.’

Reaching your potential

‘Am I reaching my potential?’ This is not the same as asking, ‘How do I rise to the top?’ or ‘How can I be successful in my career?’ Rather, it’s about taking a very personal look at how you define success in your heart of hearts, and then finding your path to get there.

‘Am I reaching my potential?’ is not the same as asking, ‘How do I rise to the top?’

To do that, you must step back and assess your career, starting with the recognition that managing it is your responsibility. Too many people feel like victims in their careers, when in fact they have a substantial degree of control. Seizing control requires you to take a fresh look at your behaviour in three main areas:

· knowing yourself

· excelling at critical tasks

· demonstrating character and leadership.

The daily reality

There have definitely been many highs. Working with brilliant children and great staff makes each day a good day. On a daily basis, I feel a sense of achievement when children celebrate their learning and their successes. Being at the heart of two super communities makes me feel not only proud but privileged too. I now serve 10 schools, schools deeply rooted in the Christian faith; schools filled with love, acceptance and respect. Social justice fills the air. Creativity, drama, song, dance and music are embedded in our foundations. It’s cool to enjoy learning. We celebrate with laughter and, metaphorically speaking, embrace diversity with a great big hug. We understand it’s OK not be OK and that being different is our superpower.

‘I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Maya Angelou

Though each day is filled with celebrations and successes, there are of course challenges and sometimes barriers too. Yet, we are a family, where commitment and dedication give us the courage to take risks and tackle whatever comes our way effectively.

My pinned Twitter post has become my mantra. I could not have survived the lows and celebrated the highs without the support of my networks. There are too many individual people to list here but the main networks that have been truly supportive are:

@WomenEd @WomenEdEngland @CharteredCollege @BAMEedNetwork @DisabilityEdUk @LGBTedUK @LondonSouth_TSA

leadership journey essay

Strong women (and more)

The strong women in my life have given me an energy that has acted like a catalyst to boomerang me to the next exciting stage of my professional journey.

For instance, through Twitter, Alison Peacock, @BeyondLevels, the #LearningFirst Community, borough SIP projects. Then WomenEd @ViviennePorritt (our guru). Then Hannah Wilson introduced me to the Leading Beyond One School (LBOS) course, with the London South Teaching Hub, and Jan Shaddwick, who is now the CEO at Haberdashers’ Academies, Dr Kate Chhatwal, who is the CEO at Challenge Partners. More recently Baroness Estelle Morris .

I vividly remember questioning my place on the LBOS course four years ago and allowing imposter syndrome to set in, and I am a CEO! In my current role, I have drawn on the support of Stephen Chamberlain, CEO of The Active Learning Trust, Rebekah Iiyambo, CEO of The Ek Trust and Emma Nicholls, The CEO at The Leading Learning Trust.

There is no one formula to the successful pursuit of leadership. But as much as triumphing in the world of education sometimes comes down to an unpredictable, alchemical mix of ambition, timing, innovation and an understanding of human nature, there is one element that can truly make all the difference: access.

It’s not just about gaining access to a variety of prospects, like a mentor or a coach but about access to opportunity.

‘If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’

Shirley Chisholm

Through accessing both networks and opportunities, I have gained confidence in my abilities: to lead, to plan, to network. But more than that, my ability to be me and do what I think is right, hold my head up high, admit to my vulnerabilities, take risks and make them work for me. I try to turn my vulnerabilities into strengths – in all honesty using them as a means, not a weapon, but a means to get on, to succeed.

My journey goes beyond promotion, school improvement, reading, meeting effective practitioners and being exposed to real leaders. It has allowed me to grow in a safe #WomenEd environment; an environment that challenges, accepts, makes U-turns, conquers obstacles, and allows me to reveal my true identity. It has enabled me to turn the negative into a positive and come out unscathed, smiling and fighting for equality.

Being a feminist means believing that we work together to make the world a better place by making sure the world works for everybody.

Liz Robinson, Co-Director at The Big Education, believes innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation. So let’s get networking – let’s be innovative together and become stronger together!

It’s about building people up

Not breaking them down.

It’s about feeling 10 foot tall

Not being pushed into the ground.

It’s about knowing your purpose

Never giving up the fight.

It’s about getting it wrong

In order to get it right.

It’s about taking risks

Grabbing opportunities that come your way.

It’s about turning the darkness of the night

Into the brightness of the day.

It’s about knowing yourself,

Limitations too.

It’s about breaking barriers

In order to be true.

It’s about holding your head up high

When people knock you down.

It’s about the way you bounce back

And proudly wear your crown…

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    Put simply, group work means working alongside two or more other people to reach a shared objective, goal or purpose. When done well it allows us to achieve far more than we could hope to on our ...

  12. Defining And Understanding Group Work Social Work Essay

    It will firstly define what a group is, secondly explore models of group process, thirdly the considerations involved in setting up a group, fourthly it will discuss the benefits and barriers of group work, lastly it will conclude by summarising the key points of the essay.

  13. (PDF) Group Work

    This essay describes an online, evidence-based teaching guide published by CBE—Life Sciences Education (LSE). The guide provides a tour of research studies and resources related to group work ...

  14. Introduction to Group Work

    This Kit is divided into seven units: Unit 1: Designing Group Assignments. Unit 2: Preparing Students for Group Work. Unit 3: Forming Effective Groups. Unit 4: Getting Groups Started. Unit 5: Monitoring Groups. Unit 6: Assessing Groups. Unit 7: Helping Students Reflect on their Group Experience.

  15. Group Work and Teamwork and Its Effectiveness

    Introduction Group work is the art of working together in a group so as to achieve unity goals, or to maximize each others learning in the case of students. The instructional use of groups among students to maximize learning among students is referred to as cooperative learning (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991).

  16. Group Work, Essay Example

    In colleges and universities—and even high schools—the main objective of group work is to learn how to work effectively in such settings. Knowledgeable and dedicated people with a healthy self-esteem and good people skills find such work enjoyable and productive. For some, however, it is pure torture. Being an introvert, group work was ...

  17. (PDF) Group work as an incentive for learning

    This research is focused on the students' experiences of group work and learning in groups, which is an almost non-existing aspect of research on group work prior to the beginning of the 21st century.

  18. Introduction to Group Work, Research Paper Example

    Group Work, theory and practice can be used in many settings but has specific applicability in the areas of psychotherapy. Here the theory is used in order to treat a range of psychological problems. This approach is widely used in the treatment of those suffering with addiction problems like that of alcohol or substance abuse.

  19. Get Access To Group Work College Essay Examples

    Essays on Group Work 🎓Use these essay samples and get inspiration for writing your own paper!📕 ... Introduction Social capital is the collective trust and cooperation that emerges from the web of associations among individuals involved in organizations and community group. Private exercises, not government ones, foster social capital.

  20. My Reflection On Group Work

    Group work requires talking to others, otherwise you'll just pull all of the weight and the other group members will get a free ride. Honestly, I feel comfortable controlling the whole process of group work and have people just follow what I say so I know that things are getting done right.

  21. ⇉What is Group Work and What is It? Essay Example

    What is Group Work and What is It? Introduction Group work is usually a group of up to four or six students. Each group is set to work together either by their tutors or self-selecting. Group work is for various learning purposes either set by tutors or students. It gives students the opportunity to share ideas, resources, and ability.

  22. Group Work Introduction to Social Work Practice

    Group Work-Introduction to Social Work Practice The purpose of this paper is to create a make up 'group' that would appropriately support the DSS agency, whose goals include support, prevention and treatment of abused and neglected children and their families.

  23. group work essay introduction

    Group work is usually a group of up to four or six students. Each group is set to work together either by..... 3000 word essay - two paragraphs for each step, plus a paragraph each for the introduction and conclusion;; 300 - 500 word essay - one or two sentences for each... This post will introduce you to some of the most common types of ...