Tag Archives: Challenges

Quick Links – Group Work

Below are a list of Quick Links to posts that will help you with GROUP WORK:

(Click on the title & it will take you to the post)

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Strategies & Exercises to Help Improve Your Concentration

Concentration is not an instinctive ability, rather it is a skill that can be learned and, with practice, improved on.

Improving and maintaining a healthy concentration level is dependent on a combination of four inter-related elements – if any of these four elements is missing or ignored, concentration will be effected:

  • mental challenges
  • emotional involvement
  • physical exercise
  • healthy eating

Mental Challenges

Below are two exercises you can practice to help improve your concentration:

1. Sustained concentration on a simple task
  • Start with a simple relaxation exercise – breathe in for a count of four and exhale for a count of four, whilst doing this relax your body starting with your feet and slowly working your way up to your jaw muscles and eyes.
  • With your eyes closed, picture a flower (or any simple object you can concentrate on) – examine the flower in detail, look at it up close and then from far away – continue this focused concentration on your chosen object for 2 – 3 minutes. When the time is up, open your eyes and reflect on how you concentrated: what did it feel like? Was it easy or did you struggle to stay focused on your object? Why?

  • The aim is for you to include a sustained concentration exercise in your daily schedule. Just 5 minutes of practice a day will make a difference in your ability to concentrate at will and sustain your focus over increasingly longer periods of time.

For more sustained concentration exercises, visit the Mindfulness Exercises post available on this blog.

2. Challenging your current intellectual level
  • If you get bored when studying it is possible that the material you are studying is too easy and you need to start incorporating challenges by learning and reading beyond what has been prescribed to you for a particular subject. Go to the library or surf the web for books, articles and sites on the subject that will provide you with broader, more challenging information.
  • If you get stressed when studying it is possible that the material may be too difficult, and this makes you shut down. Draw up a set of specific study goals for your study sessions, they could include: reading one chapter of a prescribed textbook, or answering a set number of questions, or brainstorming ideas for an upcoming assignment.

 

Emotional Involvement

You cannot concentrate on your studies unless you have personal commitment or interest in the subject. External motivators, such as the money you hope to make in the future or graduating with distinction, are not viable forms of commitment and motivation. Rather focus on learning about and enjoying the subject. Find out how a particular topic is personally relevant to you and what it is that you aim to do with your studies once you are done.

Negative emotions, especially stress, detract from concentration. Stress management strategies will help with this and may include things such as: mental relaxation exercises, physical exercise and hobbies.

The environment you study in greatly effects your ability to concentrate. You need to find a study time and place that allows you to fully concentrate on the topic at hand, rather than the distraction of what is going on around you.

Physical Exercise

A fundamental way of enhancing concentration is to get enough exercise every day. Find physical activities that fit with your lifestyle: walking instead of driving to the shops, jogging with a friend, taking the dog for a walk. Exercise brings variety into your life and enhances your mind’s ability to sustain focus.

Active learning is also a great concentration enhancer. Rather than just sitting passively at a desk, walk around the room whilst testing yourself, talk out loud about a section you’ve just covered, write something about the topic you’ve just read, place a cushion or stuffed toy in the corner of the room and teach it what you’ve just covered in a particular chapter.

Healthy Eating

A healthy diet is linked to improved concentration, academic ability, better sleep and general health and well-being.

Avoid:

  • artificial colourants
  • artificial flavourants
  • antioxidant preservatives

These are all found in processed foods, such as: pies, fish fingers, packet soup, 2 minute noodle flavour packets, processed meats (e.g. polony), potato crisps and fizzy drinks.

A single protein (e.g. a boiled egg or a slice of cheese the size of your index finger) and complex carbohydrates (e.g. an apple, a pear, a serving of oats, a serving of low fat yoghurt) breakfast will boost your concentration for up to three hours.

Regular, healthy snacks every two to three hours e.g. sugar free peanut butter, a tuna sandwich, home made unsalted popcorn, plain biltong, cheese or unsalted nuts help to maintain concentration.

Supplements can be taken to raise Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) levels, which are linked to concentration and brain function:

  • Omega 3 and 6  – fatty fish oil found in unflavoured cod liver oil, cold pressed salmon oil capsules and flaxseed oil, contain Omega 3 and 6.
  • Multivitamin and mineral supplements – assist with the metabolism of the fatty acids but must be free of synthetic colourants and flavourants. Some multivitamins include EFAs but usually not enough and so must be supplemented.  Supplements and vitamins can be expensive, however an increasing number of supermarkets and pharmacy chains are producing and selling their own brand of quality supplements and multivitamins at affordable prices.

 


References:

Improve Your Concentration. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_78.htm. [Accessed on: 14 March 2017].

Patterson, B. (n.d.). How Tutors Can Help Tutees Improve their Concentration. Retrieved from: https://hawaii.hawaii.edu/node/487. [Accessed on: 20 March 2017].

Group Work – Overcoming Challenges & Handling Conflict

Working in a group & having to deal with different personalities & schedules, can at best be challenging, and at worst result in total fallout

tug of war

Managing Group Conflict

You aren’t all going to agree on everything all the time – that just isn’t how groups function, at some point there will be disagreements and possibly tensions, and the way in which this is expressed and resolved is of importance.

When conflict arises within the group or between group members try to:

  • Remain objective. This means focusing on the issue of disagreement and not on the person you are disagreeing with i.e. do not attack the person, their personality, their personal traits.
  • Remain calm and hear each other out. If the disagreement turns into a shouting match and free-for-all, call a “time out”, give everyone a few minutes to calm down and collect themselves, then re-open the discussion with the rule that each person will get a chance to speak.
  • Use “I” Statements. This requires you to take responsibility for your own feelings and will help you to improve your communication when you are feeling angry or upset. The purpose of using “I” Statements is that the focus is placed on what is causing the upset whilst minimizing blame e.g. instead of saying: “We are sick of you arriving late for meetings”, you’d say: “I feel frustrated when you arrive late for meetings because it leaves the group with less time to work” OR instead of saying: “You never respond to group e-mails”, you’d say: “I feel annoyed when you don’t respond to group e-mails because it makes it difficult to figure out whether or not you agree with the suggestions being made”. The format for an “I” Statement is: “I feel _______when you_______because_______.”

I Statements

Challenges & Possible Solutions

Some common challenges when working in a group include:

Uneven contribution:

One or more group members are not contributing to the group project or are perceived  as not contributing, resulting in increased group tension and possible conflict.

Possible Solutions –

  • Set up clear expectations and guidelines for the group from the very start.
  • Assign roles & responsibilities so as to ensure that everyone contributes equally to the end product.
  • Address the issue directly and respectfully with the person/s who is not pulling their weight.
  • Include a “Record of Contribution” from each member in your project – this is a report that identifies exactly what each person in the group contributed to the project. If two people report contributing the same thing, this will raise alarms bells for your marker, and the students may then be required to provide evidence supporting their claim.
  • Refer back to the posts on: Group Work – The Basics and Group Work – Getting Organised & Started 
Scheduling Problems:

This may result in work on the project starting late or not being able to continue, resulting in feelings of resentment and frustration.

 Possible Solution –

  • Consider using alternative ways of meeting or communicating, set up an e-mail group or What’s App group for example, and use that as a way of discussing important items and keeping the project moving forward.
  • Refer back to the post on: Group Work – Getting Organised & Started.
Different Expectations & Work Ethics:

Some members may be striving for a distinction whilst others are just interested in passing. Some may go the extra mile and get their work done ahead of schedule, others may procrastinate, leaving their contribution to the last minute. This may cause considerable group tension and resentment because it feels as if not everyone is committed to the project. 

Possible Solutions –

  • Keep work and project goals realistic and attainable.
  • Remember that your actions (or lack thereof) will impact on others in the group or the group as a whole.
  • Agree on a schedule upfront and revise it periodically to ensure that everyone is keeping pace.
  • Refer back to the post on: Group Work – Getting Organised & Started.
Getting Stuck:

Groups sometimes hit a wall and get “stuck” – this can result in procrastination and work avoidance.

Possible Solutions –

  • Re-read the assessment brief focusing on the expectations and goals of the assessment.
  • Call a brainstorming session so that you can generate and discuss ideas.
  • Use mind mapping to link common ideas and threads.
  • Set up a group-lecturer appointment to discuss the problem and get unstuck.
  • Refer back to the post on: Student-Lecturer Meetings.

References:

Effective Group Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Seminars/sta-groupwork.aspx [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Therapist Aid. (2014). “I” Statements. Retrieved from: http://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/i-statements [Accessed on: 19 April 2016]

Weimer, M. (2014). 10 Recommendations for Improving Group Work. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/10-recommendations-improving-group-work/ [Accessed on: 04 September 2015]

Working Effectively in Groups. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  https://uwaterloo.ca/student-success/sites/ca.student-success/files/uploads/files/TipSheet_GroupWork_0.pdf [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]