Aug. 27, 2021

Top tips for common groupwork challenges

Groupwork helps build collaboration skills and allows students to complete larger tasks than a single student could do alone. Working with others helps students connect and share the workload, but it can also create new challenges.

We asked some students what their common groupwork challenges were (some of them may sound familiar to you!) and offered some possible solutions.

Challenge: A group member is unable to turn up to any in-person group meetings on campus

Solution:  Some group members may have a barrier to attending meetings, like family commitments or illness. It could also be that the location of the group meeting, not the time, is an issue – could they join via Zoom to chat with everyone instead?

Consider the other ways for the group to communicate outside of meetings. Try using shared online documents so everyone is working on the project in the same space. Use the “comment” feature to make notes or suggestions, the same way you may ask questions in a group meeting.


Challenge: Having trouble finding meeting times that work for everyone

Solution: If your group members all use your email and outlook calendar, the scheduling assistant in Outlook Calendar is a useful tool. If you use a lot of different calendar apps, combining this into Outlook Calendar may also help you organize your own time. If everyone in the group using different calendars, why not send out a doodle poll so group members can share what times they are available?


Challenge: Someone in your group submitted work without references, or work copied from an article.

Solution: This may have been accidental – reach out to that group member right away to remind them that all work needs to be written by them and any articles or books they read or quoted need to be referenced. If they do not respond, or it is too late to fix the error, then the group needs to approach their instructor before they submit the assignment. You should not risk the instructor finding it first, or submit the work and then declare an issue.

This can be tricky to do, few students want to ‘tell’ on their group members, but the outcome is far worse if the instructor detects the error and an investigation starts. Remember, group work is a group product and all group members are likely accountable for an academic misconduct violation.


Challenge: Mismatch in expectations, such as goal grade, the quality of the completed assignment, what everyone’s role is, or how often group members should meet

Solution: Start with a meeting to get to know each other to break the ice. Create a short “group work contract” to outline what everyone’s expectations are and what will happen if conflict arises. This might include setting a goal grade, assigning roles, or handling conflict by assigning one of the other group members to check in with if there are issues.

Group work can be a rewarding part of the university experience and help introduce you to the broader campus community. Challenges are also a normal part of collaborating with others. By planning how you will address challenges from the beginning, you can feel more confident in having a positive group work experience.