Group Work

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Yuqi Lu Newcastle

Tent1It is inevitable that both undergraduates and postgraduates will encounter group work during their years of studying. In groups, students are expected to complete tasks in a collaborative manner; these groups generally include two to six people. While the common name for such assignments is “group work,’ it is also known as “collaborative work.” It is particularly important that business students understand how to participate in this learning method in order to grow in terms of social interaction and interpersonal communication. Collaborative learning is a strategy that organizes in such a way as to encourage them to study as a team (Chickering and Ehrmann, 1996). To achieve learning objectives, team members must work together. In team collaborative activities, students can share information based on their individual research, learn from materials found by other members of the group, and even benefit from the ideas of other groups or the class as a whole. This essay discusses the design for a group workroom for students at the Business School of Newcastle University. It provides an in-depth analysis of the importance of this room, and then, specifically describes the entire design concept in detail. The essay concludes by explaining how to achieve success in terms of the work and effort going into the design of this room.

  During the process of group work, students in the group discuss, debate, and adopt dialogue, in order to work out issues effectively. This process intends to allow group consensus on the best way to move forward and achieve the learning objectives, such as completing assignments and tasks. Collaborative activities are conducive to student learning in terms of the development of individual thinking ability and the enhancement of students’ ability to communicate. Group work also allows individuals to improve their abilities to accommodate interpersonal differences.  Collaborative learning exerts several other significant positive effects on learners. For example, it improves student learning results, helps form students’ critical and creative thinking skills, builds optimism towards the learning content and school, increases the ability to communicate between members, and cultivates self-esteem and respectful relationships with others. There are a number of strengths that assist students in improving their professional skills (Caruso and Woolley, 2008; Mannix and Neale, 2005). For instance, researchers have reported that the practice of group work greatly benefits study skills, strong memory, and high exam scores (Astin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006).

  Several common sayings apply to group work, including the following: “more hands make for lighter work.”; “two heads are better than one”; and “the more, the merrier.” These expressions indicate that collaborative work and group projects have more than one member, and indeed, interaction leads people to be more productive, creative, and motivated. Due to the advantages described in this section, group work has become popular in every field, and it is particularly relevant to individuals in business school.  Against this backdrop, this essay intends to describe a room designed to optimize group work.

  Group work is not always easy. In completing an assignment by cooperating with several people, the point is to communicate and discuss issues appropriately with all group members. The final agreement of the group is required to approach a common task. To increase motivation in the face of such a difficult mission, the group work space can play a vital role. Innovative work space design can arouse the enthusiasm of team members and stimulate effective group work. There is a series of steps that a designer can take to reach this aim. To begin, there should be enough space to plan the room. Space design refers to the layout, structure, and physical and psychological space divisions (Davis, 1984). Space design needs to consider various issues related to science, technology, humanities, and arts (Sime, 1986). The biggest goal of a group work room is to create a comfortable, convenient, sanitary, safe and efficient learning environment for students. To a great extent, a well-designed room can improve the efficiency of team members. Space design for a group work room is divided into two main parts: the aesthetic demand and functional requirements meeting the needs of more than one member.

  Currently, there are two space design concepts on group work. One is team space. The space can be divided into a large space for several (3 to 6) team members. The team can arrange the space on their own and distinguish itself from other teams for meetings, storage of data, and communication with members. According to student preferences and needs, there also can be some personal space.

  The second possibility is public space. The most important feature of group work is its public nature. A good design must have a space for transition, not just an aisle corridor, but an environment that moves from public to private (La Marca, 2010). For example, the space nearest to an elevator door can be part of the design for a meeting room or a negotiation space. It can assist in promoting different rhythms in order to achieve a partition separating public space and private space. As a public space, a group work space not only has formal meeting rooms but also an informal public space, such as a comfortable tea room, or a deliberately empty corner. Informal public space allows students to meet each other naturally; such chance meetings give students the chance to inadvertently talk out their ideas outside the serious confines of the conference/classroom. Such a space is able to strengthen exchanges between students. Meanwhile, this public space provides students the autonomy to feel free to dress up their personal space.

  The support of Newcastle University and other social communities is a major element to implementing this room design. For one thing, it is essential that students in business school be provided numerous assignments relating to team work. The university can encourage the collaborative work method to simulate students’ social abilities, including interactions with others and learning and understanding course materials outside the classroom. This “meeting of the minds” can be extremely helpful to undergraduates and postgraduates in opening their minds and thinking broadly when they are confused about a certain question or come across obstacles. For students in business school, these skills are imperative because they are studying relevant commerce topics requiring the ability to interact effectively to do business. In addition, it is in local companies’ best interest to invest in the group work room. What the business focuses on is creativity and collaborative work, and these two elements naturally complement one another. Collaborative work, with its emphasis on discussion and communication, can produce amazing results—a novel idea or a perfect measure (Taylor and Greve, 2006). These results come easily from the brainstorming process. Group work provides university students a head start on their future careers. If a person is able to adjust and excel in the team environment, he or she will be suitable for the real conditions of business life. Consequently, hiring students with such experience benefits companies who will have to spend less time training these “freshmen.” Thus, it is beneficial to support this group work room design not only for the university but also for local businesses.

  With regard to detailed layout, the core design of a group work room is a combination between learning and discussion. Most importantly, the public area should have sufficient space. It is a place where members of a group are able to provide their own views and produce new ideas. With this idea in mind, comfort and simplicity become primary design considerations. Picture One provides a conceptual design picture that generally fits the needs of this requirement. Chairs of varying shapes are placed at random according to diverse functions. Furthermore, every public area and private room is equipped with a big whiteboard on the wall. When coming up with valuable tips or opinions, students can write them down on the board by using marking pens or chalk sticks. When it comes to the logistical process of a certain project, it is useful for a team to be able to create a diagram on the board showing members’ contributions. It also should be noted that this is a space where people can relax and can think about their projects; from design to configuration, the design includes hidden thoughtfulness and ingenuity. Moreover, the designers hope that 100% of students are able to relax while being productive and generating ideas. Hence, this project aims to design an intimate and interactive space to stimulate new ideas, thus allowing students to better complete group work.

  As for the private room, there are several quiet, independent study rooms for the purpose of recording individual thoughts and ideas after group discussion, which will assist in implementation. The point of a private space is to have a quiet room. The study room is for groups with 2-6 students who can calmly write down their summary of a debate, for example. This stage can be considered a recording process requiring members to recall their memories of the discussion. Therefore, it is necessary to separate these study rooms from the noisy environment of the more public space. The cover of the room should keep students from outside distraction. It also could be a closed room with a window and lockable door (see Pictures Two and Three). In addition, these small study rooms’ shell consists of bright red, blue, green and yellow colors (see Picture Two). These colors reflect student features—confidence, youth, energy, and innovative spirit. Meanwhile, computers cannot be overlooked; they are installed on the desk. In the current digital and Internet era, this tool is essential for students to carry out a project or an assignment.

To achieve this goal, it is essential to receive the support of the university and other local enterprises. This is the main success factor for designing this group work space. Besides, the obvious needs derived from business students play a vital role on the implementation of the group work. The business school, like other schools in Newcastle University, uses this study style to increase students’ cooperation abilities and reach their full potential. Such a space will allow students to build knowledge based upon their own views. Based on this fact, the university should support this project to encourage collaborative work.

  Overall, the group work room this essay intends to design will make the business school more innovative, active and creative. It would be divided into main two parts, a public space and a private space. The aim of the public space is a comfortable place so that students can get involved in this cozy atmosphere. They can throw themselves entirely into the group work. The core goal of the private room is to establish a quiet study room, which is different from the bustling environment outside. It can provide team members with a good space to make notes and summarize their meeting notes from the group project. Although this represents an ideal concept of group work room design, the operability and feasibility of this work room is undeniable.

References
  • Astin, A. (1993) What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  •  Caruso, H.M., and Wooley, A.W. (2008) ‘Harnessing the power of emergent interdependence to promote diverse team collaboration’, Diversity and Groups, 11, 245-266.
  •  Chickering, A. W. and Ehrmann, S. C. (1996) ‘Implementing the seven principles: Technology as lever’, AAHE bulletin49, 3-6.
  •  Davis, T. R. (1984) ‘The influence of the physical environment in offices’, Academy of Management Review9(2), 271-283.
  •  La Marca, S. (2010) Designing the learning environment. Aust Council for Ed Research.
  •  Mannix, E. and Neale, M.A. (2005) ‘What differences make a difference? The promise and reality of diverse teams in organizations’, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 6(2), 31-55.
  •  National Survey of Student Engagement Report (2006) http://nsse.iub.edu/NSSE_2006_Annual_Report/docs/NSSE_2006_Annual_Report.pdf.
  •  Sime, J. D. (1986) ‘Creating places or designing spaces?’ Journal of environmental Psychology6(1), 49-63.
  •  Taylor, A. and Greve, H. R. (2006) ‘Superman or the fantastic four? Knowledge combination and experience in innovative teams’, Academy of Management Journal49(4), 723-740.
  •  Tinto, V. (1987) Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.