In the last post I discussed 5 elements which are important within team work projects and how the way that they practiced would have an effect on the success of the final outcome.

https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/tips-students/being-part-team/teamwork-skills-being-effective-group-member

I came across this page, entitled ‘Teamwork skills: being an effective group member’
which looks in depth at students’ ability to attend to the climate within their group and the process of accomplishing their tasks through strong communication skills.

It is very in depth about the forming of the group and how they work together. Whilst it does not look much into the methodologies of group work it hones its points towards that of how the group can best work together and collaborate and this is very useful to me. Not only does it develop my own understanding of those 5 characteristics that I identified but it is helpful for me to read for my own reflective benefit in having a better understanding of teamwork – which is extremely beneficial as this is the motive for my project.

Furthermore the page is from The University of Waterloo and so gaining this knowledge from the perspective of teaching within education is also very useful as my project’s audience is for students who are working in teams. Therefore to see information from a teaching point of view is interesting.

 

Below extract taken from ‘Teamwork skills: being an effective group member’. Available at: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/tips-students/being-part-team/teamwork-skills-being-effective-group-member

Communication skills

To function successfully in a small group, students need to be able to communicate clearly on intellectual and emotional levels. Effective communicators:

  • can explain their own ideas
  • express their feelings in an open but non-threatening way
  • listen carefully to others
  • ask questions to clarify others’ ideas and emotions
  • can sense how others feel based on their nonverbal communication
  • will initiate conversations about group climate or process if they sense tensions brewing
  • reflect on the activities and interactions of their group and encourage other group members to do so as well

Regular open communication, in which group members share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings, is a must for successful group work. Unspoken assumptions and issues can be very destructive to productive group functioning. When students are willing to communicate openly with one another, a healthy climate will emerge and an effective process can be followed.

Skills for a healthy group climate

To work together successfully, group members must demonstrate a sense of cohesion. Cohesion emerges as group members exhibit the following skills:

  • Openness: Group members are willing to get to know one another, particularly those with different interests and backgrounds. They are open to new ideas, diverse viewpoints, and the variety of individuals present within the group. They listen to others and elicit their ideas. They know how to balance the need for cohesion within a group with the need for individual expression.
  • Trust and self-disclosure: Group members trust one another enough to share their own ideas and feelings. A sense of mutual trust develops only to the extent that everyone is willing to self-disclose and be honest yet respectful. Trust also grows as group members demonstrate personal accountability for the tasks they have been assigned.
  • Support: Group members demonstrate support for one another as they accomplish their goals. They exemplify a sense of team loyalty and both cheer on the group as a whole and help members who are experiencing difficulties. They view one another not as competitors (which is common within a typically individualistic educational system) but as collaborators.
  • Respect: Group members communicate their opinions in a way that respects others, focusing on “What can we learn?” rather than “Who is to blame?” See constructive feedback in the process section for more details.

 

I said above that the detail in the pages identification of communication skills was interesting to read and developed my 5 group characteristics. However it is the last point that is most important – reflect on the activities and interactions of their group and encourage other group members to do so as well.

My project is about post group work reflection but I would also like to emphasize that this reflective behavior is not just a great method for development after work is complete. It can be extremely redeeming to reflect during the course of collaboration. Although this seems to be obvious and would naturally occur anyway I feel it is important to highlight as a conscious effort to reflect on the actions of the group can be very helpful in moving forward and achieving higher potential.

 

As an instructor, you can use several strategies to encourage students to develop a healthy climate within their small groups:

 

  • After students have worked in their groups for a couple of weeks, have them fill in a “Are we a team?” checklist individually, then discuss their answers within their group. Have them repeat this exercise when they have completed their task.

Above is another statement from the page which I feel is very helpful towards my project and gives me a potential idea. This is encouraging students to reflect on their teamwork process both during and after their project to see how they feel about being part of a team and by directly asking them it is a very effective way of self acknowledgement of their development within teamwork and to help them see its importance.

Therefore it could be very beneficial to have at some stage of my project some replication of this where rhetorical questions are asked which would allow the audience to answer based on their own experience. Of course this will lead to different responses and the material they view after this has to be appropriate, which could be hard as each viewer may not be in the same place. This however is something that I will consider later during the stages of the user experience but it is an idea which at the moment I am very fond of.

 

References

University of Waterloo. (n.d) ‘Teamwork skills: being an effective group member’. Centre for Teaching Excellence.  [online] Available at: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/tips-students/being-part-team/teamwork-skills-being-effective-group-member [Accessed on 16/02/15]

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