Teach Teamwork To Students

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Teach Teamwork To Students

Just as a teacher needs to teach academic skills, social skills also need to be directly addressed. Students who work in teams need

(a) an opportunity to work together cooperatively (where teamwork skills need to be manifested),

(b) a motivation to engage in the teamwork skills (a reason to believe that such actions will be beneficial to them) , and

(c) some proficiency in using teamwork skills”

Why is it important to teach teamwork to students and how can it be done?

Thinking about teaching teamwork

There are several positions an academic may take about teaching students about teamwork:

·         students need to be taught specifically about teamwork before they can begin learning.

·         students don’t need to be taught about teamwork because they’ve already experienced teams elsewhere: school, sport, community groups etc. 

·         students will learn about teamwork through the process of doing it and don’t need to be taught specifically.

In fact all three of these positions have some validity. Many students will have had previous experience in being on a team and may be able to draw on this.

However, there may be difficulties for students with poor communication and social skills, limited previous opportunities for group/team experience, different social and cultural models of how groups/teams work, or of non-dominant gender. They will learn more about teamwork by being involved in the processes you are designing.

With the increasing use of social networking, instant messaging and online communication students are becoming connected to more and more people. I do feel positive about the increase of this type of communication and the growth of the internet as a learning tool.

However, students seem to be interacting face to face with their peers less often, and some key communication and teamwork skill are being left behind and not taught effectively. Despite the growth of online communication, direct communication will always be important and necessary. Those people with these communication skills will be at an advantage as opposed to those who can’t quite get along with their peers.

There are many group work tasks you can give to teach teamwork to students and allow them to practice their positive and productive communication with each other. There are projects students can work on in teams, jobs students can complete together and a huge range of games students can play that involve productive teamwork skills to be successful.

To teach teamwork to students however you also need to highlight to them the importance of teamwork and also what skills they will need to communicate effectively and work well in a team. Here are some vital skills you can highlight and discuss with your students.

Listening:

The most important is that students need to listen, first of all so that other students can speak without being interrupted and secondly so that all students know what is being discussed and where the conversation is heading. A simple way of assisting the students with this is to give the group a toy or object, only one person can speak at a time and it is the person holding the object. I use a fluffy animal but it can be anything, I’ve had groups of students who have just used a particular pencil.

Speaking:

Of course people do need to speak in groups, to give their own ideas and give feedback to other people’s ideas. Lots of students have no trouble talking to their friends but to work effectively in a group students have to learn how to talk effectively to the whole group. When speaking, students need to express their ideas clearly and get to the point so that they are easily understood. People can tune out if someone is talking for too long about one thing or jumping from one idea to another and younger children have a shorter attention span than adults.

Confidence:

Not so much a skill as much as a state of mind but I believe it’s a state of mind students can practice and learn. To participate in teamwork students need confidence, they need to express their ideas confidently and accept other students’ negative feedback without being too offended to continue.

Building a students confidence can be a long elusive process but the more group work your student partake in and the more they learn how to listen and speak effectively their confidence towards working in teams will improve.

There are many other skills you can discuss to teach teamwork to students including respect, leadership and assignment of roles and responsibilities. You can go into these in more detail with your students when the fundamentals of listening, speaking and confidence have been discussed and practiced.

WORKING THROUGH THE ASSUMPTIONS

It is important to be clear about your own assumptions, as well as to be aware of the assumptions that students may bring with them to the team. This list   may help Sidentify some of these. You need to decide whether to have students discuss these, or to discuss them with the tutors/team supervisors, so they can be aware of when these assumptions may be influencing the students’ performance.

Assumptions (consider, challenge, accept/reject) about team work:

  • Being able to work in a team is good

  • Conflict must be resolved or minimised

  • Team work grows out of the democratic ideal, that all people have a right to a say and to participate in decision making one way or another.

  • Groups/teams and group/team functioning are the building blocks of larger social institutions.

  • Individuals feel that the organisation/team should help them; it is not the individual’s prime job to help the organisation/team.

  • We depend on groups for our survival at basic physiological level through to social and interpersonal levels.

  • Importance of the individual vs. the importance of the group/team

  • Groups/Teams are a waste of time

  • Criticism is bad for the group/team, we must always have consensus

  • You can only act the way you are, you can’t learn new ways of behaving in a team

  • Leaders are born, not made

An excellent way of introducing students to teamwork and to help them practice their abilities is through classroom games, either team games or individual games that require them to interact with each other. Games are a great engaging way for students to practice communication and teamwork.

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