Group work in higher education: a mismanaged evil or a potential good?

  • GP van Rheede van Oudtshoorn University of Pretoria & Central University of Technology, Free State
  • D Hay University of Pretoria & Central University of Technology, Free State


This study focuses on the modal proposition that group work in the context of higher education has the potential to enhance learning among students, but has yet to reach its valid zenith of utility value in didactical practice. The particular characteristics of the small group in the context of higher education are described and supplemented by an explication of the small group learning process students partake in. This is followed by a brief examination of structured activities for group work; the assessment of group work; and the implications for the managing of group work in higher education. Empirically, the study explores the perceptions of students regarding group work. Results show that students are positively inclined towards group work and have constructive views regarding the nature of group work as a learning mode. Theoretically speaking, group work has a wealth of potential to offer to the lecturer and the learner. The complexity of the phenomenon leaves the lecturer with no choice but to take great care in the use of group work. The fact that group work is not viewed as a mismanaged evil leaves the door open for further use of this mode of teaching, learning and assessing in higher education.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.18(2) 2004:131-149

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eISSN: 1011-3487