What makes a 'good group'? Exploring the characteristics and performance of undergraduate student groups

Channon, S B and Davis, R C and Goode, N T and May, S A (2017) What makes a 'good group'? Exploring the characteristics and performance of undergraduate student groups. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 22 (1). pp. 17-41.

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Abstract

Group work forms the foundation for much of student learning within higher education, and has many educational, social and professional benefits. This study aimed to explore the determinants of success or failure for undergraduate student teams and to define a ‘good group’ through considering three aspects of group success: the task, the individuals, and the team. We employed a mixed methodology, combining demographic data with qualitative observations and task and peer evaluation scores. We determined associations between group dynamic and behaviour, demographic composition, member personalities and attitudes towards one another, and task success. We also employed a cluster analysis to create a model outlining the attributes of a good small group learning team in veterinary education. This model highlights that student groups differ in measures of their effectiveness as teams, independent of their task performance. On the basis of this, we suggest that groups who achieve high marks in tasks cannot be assumed to have acquired team working skills, and therefore if these are important as a learning outcome, they must be assessed directly alongside the task output.