Supporting student groupwork

Teresa Strachan, Senior Lecturer

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do? 

Students studying TCP3028 Strategies into Action: Planning are required to complete a group work project for their assessment. We recognise the importance of developing group work skills early to help students work well together on the module’s assessed group work project. With this in mind, we focused on the importance of group work right at the start of the module by introducing a session led by the Careers Service.

The session helped students to begin reflecting on what skills and strengths they could bring to their group work and we build on this through tutoring that happens through the whole semester.

Who is involved?

  • Module teaching team
  • Careers Service
  • Students studying TCP3028 Strategies into Action: Planning

How did you do it? 

I worked with Fiona Hartley from the Careers Service who offered a session during induction week. She identified the importance of group work when students were looking at their own profile. Students were asked to reflect on their professional skills and their interpersonal skills, focussing on what they did well but also their skills that might need developing.

During the session, students completed a skills and strengths audit, working in groups in breakout rooms. Fiona used the STAR (situation, task, action, result) activity and asked students to identify what they would do in a particular project. The main aim was to present group work as part of a reflective process which is an important element of student’s professional accreditation and continuing professional development.

Students are given a choice of group projects that they work on throughout the year focussing on real life issues. We hoped the session would help students successfully work as part of a group when completing their project.  Examples of projects include:

  • The regeneration of Sunderland
  • Community engagement around hot food takeaways
  • Active travel in North Tyneside
  • Property Development in Gateshead

Students need to gather a lot of evidence for these projects and to be successful they should come to a collective vision to present  a solution to a spatial planning issue. They have to produce 2 reports; a background report and a strategy report to address a range of issues including funding, how they involve the community, how they’ll phase that work, how they’ll monitor progress as if they were preparing to deliver the strategy in real life. This can be a really important module for students, and I know they often take the outputs to interview.

Why did you do it? 

We wanted to focus on group work skills early on because of the importance of these skills throughout the module and through a student’s future professional career. The aim was to encourage students to look beyond their university career and into the professional world and career ahead.

Generally, there are some key benefits of introducing group work into a module as it can create a sense of ‘togetherness’ which generates shared learning. When students need to rely on others, they develop listening and communication skills which really enhances learning. Being able to share and see different perspectives is an important part of this. Introducing group work early on helped to set students up for success.

Does it work? 

Our induction session on group work was highlighted as an area of good practice in a recent Annual Monitoring Review and this year we had some really positive feedback from a student in a Board of Studies. They felt supported in their groups and recognised the value of what they were doing, noting how it made a difference to their learning.

External examiners recognised the professional and practice relevance of the  group work and suggested renaming it as  ‘teamwork’ to underline this.

Graduate Framework 

This approach develops the following attributes:

  • Collaborative
  • Engaged
  • Reflective and Self-Aware

Find out more about the Graduate Framework


2 thoughts on “Supporting student groupwork

  • This is a fantastic idea. I lead module ONC8029: Managing Pain (PGT), which includes an assessment group task. I suppose I assume students (being postgrads) have sufficient self-awareness to form self-organising groups. I’d never thought to include STAR in the induction to the group task. Makes perfect sense on reading this.

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