Is group work actually any good for the individuals’ learning?

Does working as a group actually help us learn? by Dean Burnett

Have you ever wondered whether all that group work you have (had) to do at university was of much benefit for your own learning? Does the thought of another group assignment make you want to vomit? Whether it does or not, I advise you read this excellent piece on group/team learning by Dean Burnett, where he covers many of the pros and cons of learning in groups. Bear in mind though that for all the potential faults associated with learning in a group, nurses have to work in teams, and effective teamwork is essential to get the best outcomes for our patients.

TBL in action - Medical Students announcing their team answers to their group-work, Tulane University

TBL in action – Medical Students announcing their team answers to their group-work, Tulane University

Evidence is starting to suggest that team-based learning  (TBL) is an effective strategy for promoting the development of skills and knowledge required of 21st century nurses, including that of critical thinking (for example). For that reason I’ve started introducing TBL into the nursing curriculum at BU in the teaching of applied pathophysiology (I’ll be presenting results on the evaluation of this at NET2016 in Cambridge, September 2016 – suffice to say the results are looking good).

The benefits of working as a team is not just about individual learning of course. As Burdett concludes, ‘It’s rare to encounter an employer or institute that doesn’t emphasise “teamwork skills” these days, and in our increasingly interconnected society, learning how to be part of a group is something worth working on, regardless of the task itself”. So, learn to love the team…

NB. A group of individuals may remain just that, and not function as an team. So with group work we also want to encourage the development of effective teams.

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