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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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9.6 Monitoring progress

9.6.1 Monitor and critically reflect on your skills

As you work on the group task, you need to make time to reflect on how you are working with others. Try to identify factors that influence your ability to work effectively with others, such as levels of self-confidence, communication skills, gender, culture and the distribution of power and influence between those involved. Try to assess the effectiveness of the choices you have made – for example timescales and resources allocated, methods selected – in working towards the goals and your management of the activity.

Time out

At a convenient time, aim to encourage the group to pause and consider how well group members are working together. For example, most groups working together for the first time have to organise several meetings to progress the task. You all need to ensure that those meetings are effective and efficient, otherwise time is wasted and frustrations build up. You might like to use the following checklist towards the end of a group meeting, particularly if things have not gone too well.

Meetings checklist: what went well
It was clear that the meeting was well organised; for example someone led the discussions.
At a face-to-face meeting, it was clear who was taking notes.
We reviewed our last meeting.
We reviewed our progress since the last meeting.
Before we started it was clear what the meeting was meant to achieve.
It became clear at each stage what the meeting was meant to be achieving.
We had a clear list of things to discuss and work on.
We moved through the various topics in an orderly way.
We spent an appropriate amount of time on each of the different things we discussed.
The discussions were focused on decisions we needed to make.
We made clear decisions and recorded these.
There will be a written summary of what we agreed.
We agreed details of the next meeting
We know what the next meeting session will be for.
The meeting session was effective.
The meeting session was enjoyable.
Meetings checklist: what did not go well?
The meeting session was over-structured.
We didn't pay enough attention to each other.
We kept repeating arguments instead of moving on.
We constantly interrupted each other.
We just pushed our own views instead of developing and encouraging others’ ideas.
We allowed some members to dominate.
Some of us didn't contribute.
We didn't compromise enough.
We concentrated on making impressions rather than on getting the jobs done.
We didn't have clear tasks or objectives.
We aren't clear about what has been decided.
We didn't make it clear who is to take action on decisions.
We put each other down.
We were overly polite to each other.
We brought in irrelevant or unhelpful points.
We didn't take into account that others have feelings about what is happening in the team.
Source: Adapted from Gibbs, G. (1994) Learning in Teams: a student manual, Oxford Centre for Staff Development, Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

This type of exercise can be very revealing, especially if you can keep it fairly light-hearted and avoid blaming individuals. Remember, groups work best when all the members are prepared to take some responsibility for how they function. So, for example, if some people are not contributing, you should ask yourselves as a group why that should be. Is it that others are being too dominant? Is it that some people are not being given a chance to get a word in edgeways? Should those who are shy or reticent be specifically invited to give their opinion? And so on.