Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 17–41 | Cite as

What makes a ‘good group’? Exploring the characteristics and performance of undergraduate student groups

  • S. B. ChannonEmail author
  • R. C. Davis
  • N. T. Goode
  • S. A. May


Group work forms the foundation for much of student learning within higher education, and has many educational, social and professional benefits. This study aimed to explore the determinants of success or failure for undergraduate student teams and to define a ‘good group’ through considering three aspects of group success: the task, the individuals, and the team. We employed a mixed methodology, combining demographic data with qualitative observations and task and peer evaluation scores. We determined associations between group dynamic and behaviour, demographic composition, member personalities and attitudes towards one another, and task success. We also employed a cluster analysis to create a model outlining the attributes of a good small group learning team in veterinary education. This model highlights that student groups differ in measures of their effectiveness as teams, independent of their task performance. On the basis of this, we suggest that groups who achieve high marks in tasks cannot be assumed to have acquired team working skills, and therefore if these are important as a learning outcome, they must be assessed directly alongside the task output.


Assessment Group work Small group learning Small group teaching Teamwork 



Cartoon drawings in Fig. 4 were kindly provided by Julia Sands. We would like to thank Ruth Serlin, Maria O’Conor and Jo Fisher for their help with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. B. Channon
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. C. Davis
    • 2
  • N. T. Goode
    • 1
  • S. A. May
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Comparative Biomedical SciencesThe Royal Veterinary CollegeLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Academic Support and DevelopmentThe Royal Veterinary CollegeHertfordshireUK
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Sciences and ServicesThe Royal Veterinary CollegeHertfordshireUK

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