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Teamwork in the Classroom
What is Teamwork?
Teamwork is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group." This does not mean that the individual is no longer important; however, it does mean that effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals involved harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal.
Why Should Teachers be Interested in Teamwork?
Teamwork has become an important part of the working culture and many businesses now look at teamwork skills when evaluating a person for employment. Most companies realize that teamwork is important because either the product is sufficiently complex that it requires a team with multiple skills to produce, and/or a better product will result when a team approach is taken. Therefore, it is important that students learn to function in a team environment so that they will have teamwork skill when they enter the workforce. Also, research tells us that students learn best from tasks that involve doing tasks and involve social interactions.
Collaborative learning should be included in almost every classroom, but some teachers struggle with having students work cooperatively. There are a number of reasons for this struggle, which include the need to develop good team exercises and the added difficulty in assessing the individual performance of the team members. This is where understanding how to teach effective teamwork becomes a crucial task for the teacher.
What is the Difference Between a Group Exercise and a Team Exercise?
One of the first things that an instructor must recognize is the difference between an individual working as part of a group and an individual working as part of a team. Below is a list of the differences that exist between these categories. After reading through the list, it should be clear what the difference is and which one would be ideal in a classroom and the workplace.
Characteristics of Effective Teams.
The following are eight characteristics of effective teams the were identified by Larson and LaFasto in their book titled Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (Sage Publications 1989).
Stages of Team Growth.
It is important for teacher and students (the team members) to know that teams don't just form and immediately start working together to accomplish great things. There are actually stages of team growth and teams must be given time to work through the stages and become effective. Team growth can be separated into four stages.
Stage 1: Forming. When a team is forming, members cautiously explore the boundaries of acceptable group behavior. They search for their position within the group and test the leader's guidance. It is normal for little team progress to occur during this stage.
Stage 2: Storming. Storming is probably the most difficult stage for the group. Members often become impatient about the lack of progress, but are still inexperienced with working as a team. Members may argue about the actions they should take because they faced with ideas that are unfamiliar to them and put them outside their comfort zones. Much of their energy is focused on each other instead of achieving the goal.
Stage 3. Norming. During this stage team members accept the team and begin to reconcile differences. Emotional conflict is reduced as relationships become more cooperative. The team is able to concentrate more on their work and start to make significant progress.
Stage 4. Performing. By this stage the team members have discovered and accepted each other's strengths and weaknesses, and learned what their roles are. Members are open and trusting and many good ideas are produced because they are not afraid to offer ideas and suggestions. They are comfortable using decision making tools to evaluate the ideas, prioritize tasks and solve problems. Much is accomplished and team satisfaction and loyalty is high.
Since working as part of a team can improve learning and is a much needed skill in today's workplace, some team exercises should be included in the classroom. With well planned out tasks, careful guidance, and close observation, instructors can make team exercises extremely valuable learning experiences.