Group Work Experiences


  • Nicola Anne Dimelow Sheffield Hallam University
  • Ann Walker Sheffield Hallam University
  • Lisa Heavey Sheffield Hallam University


Group work, bullying, free loading, social loafing, university


Research suggests that the majority of students in HE derive a positive experience of group work during their studies (Burdett, 2003; Orr, 2010, Payne et al, 2006; Maiden & Perry, 2012; Walker, 2001), although there are differences between students in the individual time and effort they invest. The perceptions of higher-contributing students have been documented (Orr, 2010), although the experience of students who contribute less has yet to be systematically explored. An on-line questionnaire, developed to assess students’ experience of group work, was administered to 58 undergraduate and postgraduate social science students. The questionnaire explored the following in relation to group work: (1) positive aspects and skill development; (2) negative experiences; (3) extent of students’ own contribution; (4) experience of bullying and harassment behaviours. Open-ended, qualitative items were also included to supplement the questionnaire data. In line with previous research, the majority of the sample rated their group work experience positively, identifying a range of benefits from this process. Students’ explanations for reduced input to group work ranged from a preference for independent work to the experience of negative interactions between group members, including bullying behaviour. Implications of the findings are discussed, including the need for strategies to safeguard against bullying behaviour in-group work.

Author Biographies

Nicola Anne Dimelow, Sheffield Hallam University

Psychology (Development and Society)

Ann Walker, Sheffield Hallam University

Psychology (Development and Society), Principal lecturer

Lisa Heavey, Sheffield Hallam University

Psychology (Development and Society)