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Student COIL Libguide

Group Work

Group work is the process by which people cooperatively work with other people towards the same goal. Group work is important as it brings together different perspectives which improve the quality of the work produced compared to the quality of work produced individually. 

One premise of COIL is students’ engagement in group projects with international peers. Therefore, recognizing best practices in group work and proactively identifying techniques to deal with conflict are imperative to your success in your COIL project.

First Meeting: Icebreaker Strategies

Think back to the teams and groups that you’ve been a part of that have been successful. What did they have in common? Successful teams and groups share similar characteristics: the team members feel appreciated, respected, listened to, and cared for. In a COIL project, focusing on team-building is of the utmost importance. You will be working with your peers throughout the term. Getting to know your peers, at Sheridan and abroad, will allow you to develop successful intercultural COIL teams. 

An icebreaker is a simple and quick activity that enables team members to get to know each other. Icebreakers allow you the opportunity to make everyone feel welcomed and involved. See examples of icebreaker activities you can use below:

Icebreaker Activity  How To
Pizza Topping Ask each member in your group to pick a pizza topping that describes them and have them explain why.
Fun Fact Have each group member share one fun fact about themselves.
Two Truths and a Lie Group members take turns revealing 3 things about themselves. 2 of the facts are true and 1 is a lie. Everyone else must vote on which they think is the lie.

Best Practices

Group work requires both interpersonal and project management skills. The skills necessary to effective group work include:

Interpersonal Skills

  • Building positive working relationships
  • Communicating effectively in meetings
  • Negotiating to agree on tasks and resolve conflicts
  • Accommodating people with different cultural orientations and work habits

Project Management Skills

  • Identifying group goals and dividing work
  • Planning and complying with meeting schedules and deadlines
  • Managing time to meet group expectations
  • Monitoring group processes and intervening to correct problems

The Do's and Don'ts of Group Work

The dynamics and expectations of group work might differ from one country to the other. Consider the following do's and don'ts to establish a common understanding of group work and ensure a productive team environment.



Negotiate and reach a common understanding of what group work means to you.

Expect that all group members will have the same experience of group work. Definitions differ globally.

Set an agenda so that every team member is working towards the same outcome

Dominate every conversation. Ensure that all members get to share their opinions and raise their concerns. 

Keep your professor in the loop on group communications

Exclude your professor from group communications. COIL projects involve many opportunities for reflecting on the process of group work. Your professor can support you if issues arise.

Assign roles to ensure equal contribution

Expect one person to do all the work. Divide the work equally.

Set timelines so team members can pace themselves accordingly

Let your personal opinions or feelings get in the way of accomplishing your final goal.

Clarify assignment expectations and brainstorm new ideas

Be afraid to disagree with ideas or discuss your own interpretations.

Collaborate on strategies for conflict resolution

Expect that one conflict resolution strategy will work for all team members.


Techniques to Deal with Conflict

Project Planning

Project Planning is one of the most important stages of the project lifecycle. When meeting with your group members, either online or in-person, complete the Team Work Contract or Team Work Checklist to assign tasks and responsibilities fairly. Keep in mind that this should be a collaborative process that takes into account the current skills, interests, and goals of each team member. 

Learn More

To learn more about designing a project timelines, the advantages and disadvantages of group work, and working collaboratively in an online setting, visit the Group Work Module