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Home » Student Guide to Group Work » Understanding the Team

Understanding the Team

This module focuses on key tips and techniques for fostering a strong team dynamic early on in the course of a group project with the goal of building a solid foundation for all the work and stages that follow. You’ll learn to appreciate typical stages a group will go through and how to navigate these stages in ways that produce a successful outcome.

Students may benefit from using this module in tandem with the recently launched Student Project Toolkit.

Understand Yourself

  • Engage in self-reflection to identify your own strengths and weaknesses and to share what you bring (e.g., talents, skills) and what you want from the group work project, e.g. grade, skills building etc. Check out our Self-Reflective Team Communication Exercise to get started!
  • Identify your availability and the time you have to contribute to the group project, considering the realities of time/work/family constraints. Check out Managing Time in University for time management tools

Tools & Templates

The Self-Reflective Team Communication Exercise helps you engage in self-reflection individually and subsequently with group members to lay essential groundwork for successful collaboration. It includes guiding prompts on work habits and processes, communication preferences, constraints and more. Use the Work Styles Table to help you understand how you prefer to work and how this affects how you interact with others in your group.

Managing Time in University is a suite of resources to help you balance your time across various commitments, including group work projects. Draw on this rich range of learning tools, activities, worksheets, workshops and more to help you set goals, identify where your time goes, to build and align your schedule with your priorities and more.

Understand Your Group

  • Commit to building positive relationships with your group! Spend time getting to know your group members, so you can all work together as a team! Be open to diverse perspectives and backgrounds
  • Share individual goals, strengths, and weaknesses without judgement. Discuss preferred work and communication styles to help you negotiate roles for the project (see the Planning the Project module)
  • Agree on your group’s primary goals by discussing questions like these:
    • What grade is everyone hoping for and what grade is acceptable or not?
    • How much time and effort can each group member contribute?
    • What time/work/family constraints does each group member face?
    • Where do group members want to contribute based on strengths, interests or growth-oriented goals?
  • Remember that we all hold assumptions and preconceptions. Review this Introduction to Unconscious Bias (Video) to build self-awareness and accountability
  • Use our Group Inventory Tool to identify and share your goals, strengths, weaknesses, constraints etc. and to develop a group charter and ground rules
  • Remember you are not alone! Your professor and your TA can offer help, clarity, and guidelines along the way

Tools & Templates

The Group Inventory Tool is designed for you and other group members to fill out together, optimally after completing the The Self-Reflective Team Communication Exercise.  It will help you understand each others’ strengths, needs, constraints, work styles etc. and forms a great foundation in building towards a group charter.

The Teamwork Skills: Being an Effective Group Member shares tips on how to communicate effectively in a group context and how to foster a healthy group climate and an effective group process.

The Introduction to Unconscious Bias video will help you learn what unconscious bias is including the concept of affinity bias. It also provides brief coverage of how you can avoid unconscious bias through inclusive habits.

Develop a Group Charter

  • Draw up a group charter (or contract) to establish a set of “rules” or “guidelines” to structure your group process and document your group’s way of approaching its work. Making Group Contracts provides details on what a group charter is and why professors ask groups to create one
  • Include group contact information, project goals, roles, deliverables and deadlines
  • Set ground rules to establish accountability and guidelines for how your group will work together. These define group expectations on behaviours and actions like communication, meetings and deadlines
  • Agree on what constitutes breaking the rules (e.g. missed deadlines), and establish how your group will address non-performance
  • Create a signatures spot for each group to signify their agreement with the charter. You can do this virtually with Google Docs, where each group member can type their name in the document

Tools & Templates

The Group Charter Template, to be used in tandem with the The Group Charter with Guidelines and Examples, should be worked on collaboratively by you and other group members, and serve as a primary document to guide your group process and tasks.

The Group Charter with Guidelines and Examples, to be used in tandem with the Group Charter Template, offers you a group charter with explanations and examples which will be useful to adapt or draw on when compiling your own group charter.

The Team Contract Template offers you another template style with sections for goals, expectations, policies/procedures, consequences and signatures. The Sample Group Contract places emphasis on expectations (temporal, procedural, behavioural and roles-based) with useful examples, and also includes a four-step approach to resolving an impasse in a group context.

Making Group Contracts helps you understand why professors may ask you to make a group contract or charter. It will help you understand what a group contract is, why it’s important and the elements it contains. Check out the Resources section for group contract templates/samples and conflict resolution resources.

Except where otherwise noted, all resources in the Student Guide to Group Work, authored by the Learning Commons at York University in 2020, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. If you reuse, adapt or build upon this work, please cite The Student Guide to Group Work, Learning Commons, York University and link to 

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