All of the courses I teach at university, in English, linguistics, academic writing, and related subjects, involve a lot of group work. I believe that there is great potential in these kinds of collaborative learning experiences, but I agree with Capdeferro and Romero (2012) in that the students themselves can find frustration in these kinds of activities. The main problems I seem to encounter are related to imbalanced individual contributions and commitment imbalances, two sources of frustration highlighted by Capdeferro and Romero. I find commitment imbalances can occur when doing traditional group work, such as asking students to work together in order to produce something like a presentation. Problems related to individual contribution imbalances occur when students are asked to peer-review each other’s work and the like. If one student takes the time to write an extensive peer review, and in return they receive more or less nothing, this can and does result in frustration. Moreover, restrictions within the Swedish system, namely that each person should receive an individual grade, even if it is a group assignment, can lead to a difficulty in setting up collaborative learning environments which allow for fruitful group work.

Some of the ways to address these issues can be found from empirical work. Capdeferro and Romero (2012) emphasise that providing students with information relating to the expectations of the activities is one of the key components so that all parties involved in the work can adjust their expectations to align with one another. It is also necessary that the teacher understands when they should intervene in order to attempt to limit sources of frustration that may arise (Hansen, 2006). These interventions should allow the teacher to provide mechanisms for assistance and feedback (Brindley, Walti, & Blaschke, 2009). Indeed, I believe that intervention and close monitoring from the teacher can also involve an evaluative component. If the teacher must grade students individually, then the teacher following the learning process as it transpires, rather than just grading a final product, is perhaps one of the most equitable forms of evaluation in these kinds of set ups. This kind of work, however, may be rather taxing for the teacher involved, as they will need to expend more effort than they perhaps otherwise would do. This is something which universities should take seriously when considering the amount of human resources required for teaching courses which contain a lot of group work. The teacher in these cases often provides more hands on and meaningful pedagogical assistance but the additional cost is the extra time taken.


Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44. 

Hansen, R. S. (2006). Benefits and problems with student teams: Suggestions for improving team projects. Journal of Education for Business, 82(1), 11–19.

Brindley, J. E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L. M. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1–18.