Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
||Effective Team-working in a Group Project (Level 4 Undergraduate)
School of Ocean & Earth Science, University of Southampton, UK
(Present address: Learning and Development Team, Liverpool John Moores
University, 2 Maryland Street, Liverpool, L1 9DE, UK)
|| +44 (0)151 231 3690
As part of the MGeol Geology undergraduate programme at Southampton, level
4 students undertake a unit that requires them to work in small teams (between
three and six members) with the aim of designing and conducting a single fieldwork-based
group project. By this stage in their degree, the students have already completed
a level 3 mapping project and a level 4 individual research project, so it is
felt that this group-project needed to offer a new dimension. On top of the
geological research conducted during this project, transferable skills such
as team-working methodology, and organising and running meetings are developed.
The supervisor acts simply as a guide to keep the project on track, allowing
the students freedom to decide on what and where the subject will be based.
Structure of the Group Project:
The unit lasts one semester (Easter).
- A proposal is presented (week 4) as a written report and as a group oral
presentation. This comprises a plan for the project, a project title and a
concise literary review. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the
course. Each individual needs to have a clearly defined subject area in which
to study. These individual subject elements must then tie together to make
a single coherent project. Logistics of field-work are set out in the proposal.
- Field work (10 days). Even after an extensive literature review, at least
two days in the field are needed to find the most suitable locations - locations
where there is sufficient detail to keep each of the students active. To date,
each project has been based at three or four localities.
- Final report (Total 15 000 words), where each member contributes a chapter
detailing their own study, but with the greater emphasis on the final interpretation
and discussion chapters written collectively as a group.
- (1999 - three group members). Project title: "Spatial and temporal
relationships between fracturing, greisen-banding and mineralization at three
localities in western Cornwall". Each team member had their own subject
area to study: the geometry and scale of the vein network, the scale and distribution
of greisenization, and the distribution and composition of ore minerals within
- (2000 - three group members). Project title: "Emplacement of the Lands
End and Carnmenellis Granites: Field observations of the state of strain at
the pluton margins". One student studied magmatic and solid state deformation
fabrics within the granite, another studied the state of emplacement-related
deformation in the surrounding country-rocks, and the third studied the nature
of granitic veining at contact areas.
Additional Challenges Faced by this Type of Group Project:
- Deciding how the group will be organised and managed: will one student act
as a manager or will the team develop a mechanism to allow decisions to be
- Deciding on a project that contains enough depth to allow each member to
have their own clearly defined subject area, whilst remaining a single, cohesive
project with a clearly defined aim.
- Deciding on a field area.
- Defining a time-plan.
- Considering back-up plans in case the proposed field localities prove to
be insufficient to meet the aims of the project
- Planning and organising the logistics of the study.
- Deciding how they are to write collectively the final interpretation and
discussion chapters that tie the three individually-written components together.
Breakdown of Assessment:
- Proposal (15% for written, 5% for oral presentation)
- Final report (60% for written report. Of this, 40% is based on the individual's
chapter and 20% on that individual's contribution to the final group-written
discussion chapter. This contribution is assessed by
- results of a Self- & Peer Assessment questionnaire and
- the view
of the co-ordinator as to the role of that individual within the group). The
final 20% is based on the group presentation.
Effective Team Working:
When this project ran for the first time in 1999 (with four students), management
of the project was left essentially to the students with the supervisor informally
checking progress every week. This proved largely a success: a good quality
project report was submitted, and the students felt that they had learned a
lot about project management. However, the supervisor felt that the project
lacked cohesiveness and structure, and that more could have been drawn from
the students' performance.
For the second year (2000), the project was made potentially more complex in
that there were more students (six), with two SOCRATES students newly joined.
To add a more structured framework, the supervisor followed the BP-Amoco team-working
plan, and this worked very well. During the initial phases of the project, where
the most difficult decisions needed to be made and the team structure defined,
the team(s) met informally to discuss the project in their own time. Also, once
a week there was a more formal student-led meeting where the supervisor was
present as an observer to provide direction if needed. Here the groups' progress
was reflected upon via a 'learning log', where the students were encouraged
to express their individual feelings upon the progress of not only the project,
but the team and themselves. These meetings were treated formally, with the
students taking it in turns to chair the meeting and record action minutes.
The reason this proved successful as a learning experience is that the students
recognised and appreciated the need for these structured, formal progress meetings,
and recognised that they were learning a practical skill that could be applied
wherever their future career lay. This is important for the student approaching
the end of their level 4 course as there is often the 'I've-done-it-all-before'
attitude amongst those who are less positive.
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Page updated 4 September 2000
Database pages maintained by Phil Gravestock