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Group Work Module

Group Dynamics & Dealing with Conflict

There are many ways that cooperative learning can promote a deeper understanding of course material. However, working with others involves certain challenges and responsibilities that need to be addressed in order to maintain the cohesion and effectiveness of your study group. Consider the following as you begin to establish parameters for your group:

Different people bring different abilities and personalities to the group, which can foster or inhibit success. The group needs to agree on what is acceptable or appropriate in terms of interactions and participation.

  • It is important to stay focused. Sessions should not be allowed to degenerate into a forum for gossip or complaints.
  • Group members need to
    • feel comfortable, safe, and valued.
    • be polite and patient
    • avoid aggressive, critical responses that might inhibit participation
    • do not interrupt
    • be respectful of others’ opinions.
  • Although there may be a dominant personality within the group, one person should not be allowed to monopolize the sessions. All members should be encouraged to participate.
  • Conflicts need to be recognized and resolved quickly. Decide early on how to handle disagreements and decision-making.
  • A study group is cooperative, not competitive. Make sure to use individual members’ interests and abilities.
  •  It is important to periodically assess how the group is working. Do changes need to be made? Are interests, motivations, and commitments being maintained?

Dealing with Conflict

Before the start of the group work process, it is important to know that conflict may occur amongst group members. Conflict should be acknowledged and properly dealt with. The following are ways in which group members can handle conflict in the event that it occurs: 

  • Disagreements can make the group work process difficult if they are frequent or emotionally charged. It is important to stay emotionally detached from your work, and find common ground when there are opposing ideas.
  • Handle over-controlling group members by reminding the group that everyone’s input matters. Also, make space for other group members to give input. And ensure that everyone has a safe space to share their ideas. 
  • Handle inactive group members by addressing the problem directly. Find out why the group member is having difficulty contributing and address the issue as a group respectfully. (University of Melbourne, n.d.).


Ender, S. C. & Newton, F. B. (2000). Students helping students. John C. Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Muhlenberg. (n.d.). Guide to effective study groups.