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Group work

In Queen Mary some Advisor meetings may be group meetings. Being able to work effectively as a group is necessary in most Programmes of study so group work tutorials can be an important space to help student understand how to be effective group members.

 A group of people

Duhigg (2016) noted in a study of 180 teams in Google that the most outstanding teams had members that made each other feel safe. These had the following characteristics;

  • Members shared speaking time equitably
  • Members were “skilled in intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, expressions and non-verbal cues”.

In 2018, Gilbert explored teaching students in groups compassionate micro skills by giving them an awareness of dysfunction in groups and how this can be managed. The table below shows some of the ways students can be supported in their ability to notice dysfunctional dynamics;


Signs of communication dysfunction to notice


Compassionate micro skills


These over-talkers tend to fix eye contact with one person only in the group, often the person directly in front of them. Anxiety may be the reason. The person to whom the monopoliser is directing all their attention/eye contact is now a colluder and they should notice this.

To signal to the monopoliser that the group needs other perspectives/input to optimise the quality of group problem solving, analysis and/or criticality.

The colluder breaks eye contact with the monopoliser, directing the over-talkers gaze to the other members in the group

The colluder does not act/or acts and the monopoliser does not respond.

Other group members share responsibility to signal to the monopoliser that others also need eye contact.

Other group members act non-verbally to break up the dyad. Non-verbal communications may include: slight hand wavers, tipping the head towards the colluder, hand extending across the table, reaching and pulling gestures until the over-talker’s eye contact becomes inclusive to facilitate participation

Quiet students

For the group to notice, not normalise this and to create conditions in which the“quiet”student has “something to say and wants to say it”

Group members invite, by name, the quiet student from time to time e.g. “What do you think, Sam?” also allowing Sam to say “Nothing just now”, until Sam is invited again later e.g., “Sam do you think that..”. Thus entry points into the discussion are kept available to all members.

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