Working in groups for coursework assignments: The tertiary students’ perspective

  • Rosnah Bt. Hj. Mustafa Faculty of Language and Communication, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak


The study examined undergraduates’ perception of group work in doing coursework assignments. It specifically investigated students’ perceptions of the usefulness of group work in doing assignments; identified reasons which influence students’ preference or non-preference for group work in doing assignments; determined students’ expectations of instructor’s roles in group work; and compared students’ perceptions of group work across ethnic groups. A 39-item questionnaire was distributed to 200 students in a Malaysian public university. The findings showed that a majority of students viewed group work positively due to lesser time required to accomplish given tasks and increased interpersonal gains. Some students however disapproved of group work for several reasons including the difficulty to find mutually agreed time for discussions, domination of some group members, and the existence of slackers in the group. One major aspect highlighted in the study was students' need for continuous instructor support and assistance when group work was assigned.


Baines, E., Blatchford, P., & Chowne, A. (2007). Improving the effectiveness of collaborative group work in primary schools: Effects on science attainment. British Educational Research Journal, 33(5), 663-680.

Burdett, J., & Hastie, B. (2009). Predicting satisfaction with group work assignments. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 6(1), 61-71.

Chickering, W. A., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles in good practice in undergraduate education. Retrieved from http://www/

Cohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes team work: Group effectiveness research, from shop floor to the executive suite. Journal of Management, 23, 239-290.

Douglas, T. (2000). Basic groupwork (2nd ed.). London, UK: Routledge. Effandi Zakaria, Lu, C. C., & Md. Yusoff Daud. (2010). The effects of cooperative learning on students' mathematics achievement and attitude towards mathematics. Journal of Social Sciences, 6(2), 272-275.

Felder, R. M., & Rebecca, B. (2007). Cooperative learning. Retrieved from Hennessy, D., & Evans, R. (2006). Small-group learning in the community college classroom. Retrieved from

Jacques, D. (1995). Learning in groups. London, UK: Kogan Page Limited.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson R. T. (1991). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1994). An overview of cooperative learning. Retrieved from

Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1991). Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity. ASHE-Eric Higher Education Report No. 4. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.

Kaenzig, R., Hyatt, E., & Anderson, S. (2007). Gender differences in college of business educational experiences. Journal of Education for Business, 83(2), 95-100.

Kennett, D. J., Stedwill, A. T., Berrill, D., & Young, A. M. (1996). Co-operative learning in a university setting: Evidence for the importance of learned resourcefulness. Studies in Higher Education, 21(2), 177-186.

Kromrey, J. D., & Purdom, D. M. (1995). A comparison of lecture, cooperative learning and programmed instruction at the college level. Studies in Higher Education, 20(3), 341-349.

Livingston, D., & Lynch, K. (2000). Group project work and student-centred active learning: Two different experiences. Studies in Higher Education, 25(3), 325-345.

Long, M. H., & Porter, P. A. (1985). Group work, interlanguage talk, and second language acquisition. Retrieved from /tesol.html

McManus, S. M., & Gettinger, M. (1997). Teacher and student evaluations of cooperative learning and observed interactive behaviors. The Journal of Educational Research, 90(1-6), 13-22.

Panitz, T. (1996). A definition of collaborative vs. cooperative learning. Retrieved from index.html

Park, C. C. (2001). Learning style preferences of Armenian, African, Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, Mexican, and Anglo students in American secondary schools. Learning Environment Research, 4, 175-191.

Payne, B. K., & Monk-Turner, E. M. (2006). Students' perceptions of group projects: The role of race, age, and slacking. College Student Journal, 40(1), 132-139.

Smith, A. (2006). Group work benefits pupils, study finds. Retrieved from

Terenzini, P. T., Cabrera, A. F., Colbeck, C. L., Parente, J. M., & Bjorklund, S. A. (2001). Collaborative learning vs. lecture/discussion: Students' reported learning gains. Journal of Engineering Education, 90(1), 123-133.

Tok, H. S. (2006). Cooperative learning and achievement in English language acquisition in a literature class in a secondary school. Retrieved from http://eprints.utm. my/6550/

Vaughan, W. (2002). Effects of cooperative learning on achievement and attitude among students of color. The Journal of Educational Research, 95(6), 359-364.

Watson, B. (1995). Relinquishing the lectern: Cooperative learning in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 46(3), 209-215.

How to Cite
Hj. Mustafa, R. B. (2013). Working in groups for coursework assignments: The tertiary students’ perspective. Issues in Language Studies, 2(2).