How to get the most out of team work

Group of young people sitting at table reading books

How do you feel about group discussions or class projects? In this article, Learning Skills get you thinking about your communication preferences, embracing differences and offer some strategies for interacting effectively with others.

For some students, tutorial discussions and group projects are the best learning experiences. Others find them the worst: group members talk too much or too little or it’s hard to come to an agreement.

We all have preferences for communicating related to our personality. Add to that Macquarie’s diverse student community, with an international and multicultural flavour (our international students come from more than 100 countries; while over 60% of Sydneysiders were born outside Australia) and it’s not surprising that everyone in a class or project group is likely to have slightly different expectations about how to communicate and work together.

But, since communication and team work are critical skills for your professional career, why not make the most of the opportunities you’re getting in class?

What is your communication style?
There are many different styles of communication: your background and the kind of person you are influence your style. Surprisingly, this is often something we’re not aware of. By reflecting on your communication style[1], you’ll also better understand how you participate in group work and other people’s reactions to you.

Once you’ve done this, take the activity one step further and start noticing the communication preferences of others . You’ll be more successful interacting with others when you can modify your strategies to suit their preferences.

Above and beyond our personal preferences for working with others, some general strategies can help ensure that communication is clear. The guidelines below will help ensure that everyone in a group has an opportunity to contribute to, and to check they’ve understood, the team direction.

General strategies for effective communication and group projects
 Learn to listen to others: they’re more likely to return the favour.
– Develop tactics for offering and dealing with criticism.
Decide on group communication channels (whether they’re face-to-face or online) that everybody is comfortable using.
Cc everyone in the group into all messages about the project. Feeling included can encourage team members to contribute more to the project.
 Write up and share notes (even if they’re brief) of any group meetings. This allows everyone to check they’ve understood direction, tasks, and when they’re due.

For more resources visit our guide to Working in Groups in StudyWISE.

If you can put these strategies into practice in your classes at Macquarie, you’ll be more ready to communicate and collaborate effectively in your workplace.

[1] We’ve used Merrill & Reid’s Social Style framework. You can find out more about the construct here .

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