reflections on group work

Setting group work in a unit on leadership, and asking the students in those groups to participate in and identify their own leadership styles, seems to preempt what inevitably turned into ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’…

My group was made up of four students other than myself, all of us in different stages of our MEdTL degree; this is my final subject and the second or third for all other participants. Alongside ETL504 I have had to complete my 10 day professional placement this session, complete and submit the resulting prac report, and also the professional portfolio which summarises the entire MEdTL. Oh, and throw in a house move too, just in case that lot wasn’t entirely stressful enough (it was, just for the record! How I’ve survived I’m not entirely sure…)

In group work of days gone by (face-to-face education either as a school student or in my undergraduate degree) I have certainly had more of a leadership role. I hold myself to a high standard of written academic work, and I know that this is one of my strengths. Acting as a leader allows to me ensure that what is submitted by my group is the best quality it can be, and I don’t sit back afterwards and regret anything submitted with my name on it. This session, with a workload that pushed me right up to the brink at times, I was more happy to take a backseat and allow other leaders to take the charge.

There was an interesting dynamic that played out from the beginning. One group member tried to establish themselves as leader by being the first to create lines of communication rather than leading the content. To me, this does not make a good leader. To lead you need to be able to follow through, and simply having your name at the front of the queue is not a leadership quality. Further, this group member used their thinkspace blog as a forum to alleviate their frustrations which subsequently points fingers and shifts blame to the remainder of the group. As a site accessible to all CSU teachers and students, this not only comes across as unprofessional, but also a lasting example of breakdown in communication, that conflict is dealt with by venting rather than addressing and resolving the problem.

Aside from this, there was one team member who definitely stood out as the true leader. They instigated most of the role delegation and were first cab off the rank to begin discussions of most case studies. In contrast to the ‘leadership from a dancing guy’ video, the flocking of followers occurred as soon as the first ice had been broken (and it is here I will apologise for the inordinate amount of metaphors I appear to be using in this post). Without this leader, I imagine someone else would have stepped in to the role, but as the rest of the group tended to post their first contributions later on in the week everything may have been completed in a different time frame.

As a leader, I typically get frustrated in group tasks due to other members being perceived to not be pulling their weight. In this set of circumstances, I found myself being that laggard, and still being frustrated in the end anyway. On questioning one group member about the difference in collating individual responses into a logically flowing piece of text in comparison to simply copying and pasting chunks of work into one post, I was swiftly shut down. It appears that some who feel they are the bigger fish in the pond don’t need to listen to the bottom dwellers. This is a lesson I will certainly take away for any other group work I need to participate in; our leader was fantastic at leading by example, and encouraging and uplifting all group members.

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