2015-Rebecca Stratling

Understanding the evolution of operational routines in emergency incident response handling


There is wide acceptance of the need for group work in the education of business students. Group work mirrors the use of teams in business, facilitates sharing of ideas, develops soft skills and encourages the pursuit of synergistic advantage. Despite the potential benefits, group working continues to be unpopular with students. Many lack the confidence to work in groups, are unclear about its benefits, and receive little guidance on ‘how’ to work in teams.  

Scaffolding for group work refers to a range of supports designed to facilitate collaborative working between students, where the level of external assistance reduces as student competence increases. We conduct exploratory research into how students at a UK university experience group work and view different methods of scaffolding aimed at enhancing students’ group work skills.  

Drawing on evidence from interviews and a survey, the research finds that students often experience a lack of integration between teaching about group work and the design of group work activities both within modules and across programmes. Although the research indicates that students can benefit from fairly easy to implement scaffolding techniques, such as setting interim targets and timetables or requiring students to keep and possibly submit progress reports, it also highlights challenges related to ensuring that students are aware of the availability of scaffolding support. The research also reveals difficulties facilitating students’ engagement in collaborative, rather than merely cooperative groups work, particularly if students use discussion boards to substitute actual group meetings and therefore do not engage in face-to-face discussions.