Many students groan and cringe when they are told that they have to work as a team. Regardless of the negative attitudes that students have developed towards working as a team, group work has been proved to be healthy for both students and teachers as well. Even in the real job market, most employers want employees who have already developed teamwork skills, as this will help when it comes to relating with co-workers(Caruso &Wooley, 2008). In addition, students who take part in collaborative learning end up getting better marks and grades as compared to individuals who do not prefer working in a group.
Teaching as well as learning in almost all higher education is gradually changing. Active learning has developed into an important aspect in our times. While the whole process encompasses broad arrays of practices and collaborative learning, small group discussions has become an essential element in active participation, in theory as well as in practices (Robert,2010). Many researches have been conducted about the actual importance of group discussions and virtually all suggest that students learn first and in a better way when they involve themselves in group studies or discussions(Lago& MacMillan, 1999).
In my course of this term, we had a privilege of being bound together in groups and allowed to work together and deliver a project at the end of the term. The whole exercise proved difficult in the start as it was the first time I was being put in a group. Every group member was taken aback as no one seemed to know what to do or say next. It was a hard experience on the first day and we had to find a way of handling the situation at hand.
From day one in the discussion forum, I realized that working in a group can be both enjoyable as well as frustrating, and sometimes both. The very best way to ensure a smooth working experience in any group is to first think whether the assignment can best be handled in a group, and if the answer is yes, then set clear expectations about the group work.
The very first step in kicking off any group discussion is by first choosing a leader who will act as the chairman and spokesman. Other assisting leaders such as the secretary may also be chosen if necessary. I was put in this group of three people. One of them was (k). Despite being a student, he also had a lucrative job. In terms of performance, he always did his best, hence we chose him to be our group leader. Then there was this other member called (AB). He is that free rider of the group, extremely lazy and never bothers to even attend our scheduled meeting.
In our initial days of our meetings, it was extremely difficult coping; we could even end up not doing anything constructive after hours of meeting. Our ideas were always divergent and everybody just wanted to have his opinion considered as superior to others. However, with time, we developed a sense of understanding within ourselves. We realized we could not achieve anything if we put our self-interests first. We decided to join hands and see ourselves through. And yes, we did achieve a lot.I was always hard working in the group, the group members depended on me more than the group leader, and gradually they started looking up to me to perform most of the un-called for tasks.
Each of my group members had some hidden ability of handling stuffs in a way no one could handle, for instance, the leader of the group, (..K.) was quite good at developing all necessary procedures to be applied in doing our assignments. The other lazy group member was good at making slides as well as typing reports of our group work. I was good at collecting information from the internet for any research assignment we were given. My main job became analyzing and compiling the data we use in collecting and making final presentations and reports of the work.
Even though we had a good relationship while working together, sometimes, we would have conflicts among ourselves over different issues, but what we shared was the joy of any good remark for our work done. Whatever the scenario was, (K) stayed chill throughoutour group work, (AB.) always shared his share of work wholeheartedly. However, I do not know what exactly made him so lazy at time, to an extent of missing to attend some of our meetings.
I exactly cannot tell what kind of experiences the members of our group had towards me during the entire time we had. What I know, we truly shared all sorts of experiences and we gained a lot from each other in terms of ideologies. In the end, I can only say that I was very pleased with the time I had with my fellow group members.
During our time of working together as a team, I discovered what can and cannot work in any kind of group discussion. The teams elements that were working well include prior preparationto any group meeting, being confident while expressing your ideas, forming a debate where everybody has equal chances of contributing, conquering misunderstandings as soon as they arise, finding a balance and arriving at well agreed decisions.
Prior to any group meeting, members should adequately prepare themselves. If members do not know their materials ahead of time, then they will have very less to contribute in the discussion. Going to a meeting blank has an effect of one also not gaining much from the discussion. I discovered that thorough research of background information on the topics you will cover in your meeting will place you in a safe position during the discussion(Caruso &Wooley, 2008).
Our second best practice in a team work is possessing confidence in whatever you express or any idea you bring into the table. If you are not confident with yourself, thenyou will be scared of sharing aloud your thoughts. Group members need to trust themselves as well as trust other group members. One should be in a position to share hisopinions concerning a situation he likes or dislikes about other group members (Flynn& La, 2002).
In a successful discussion, there must be some sort of debate. Group discussions are about weighing the cons and pros of any debatable topic. The major purpose of group discussions is to see how people's views are not similar and how each individual perceives things differently. A discussion which has no debates, agreements and disagreements may be leading to nowhere as group members may be hiding a lot from each other or afraid to share out their feelings (Lago& MacMillan,1999).
One of the major blow to any group work is coming face to face with misunderstandings within members. Even though group members are mainly talking as well as announcing any idea that comes to their debates, that does not stop them from heated words spilling(Mannix& Neale, 2005). In case such happens, group members should take in and try to reach a suitable solution to such an argument. Members should try tocalm down any anger from fellow group members and bring a light-humored topic to take over.
In any successful group discussion, always struggle to find a balance. It is normal and essential to come across those small 'no' from group members who do not support an idea. It is recommended that you all do not settle in a topic that you all agree upon. This will allow everyone’s view to be listened to, and deeply thought upon. There must be flaws, obviously, or that discussion won’t be a good debate. That is most likely the main problem, where members settle for a perfect topic to discuss upon. Instead of going for such perfect and boring debate with no flaws, get a topic that no one has ever heard of. It will be good to research upon and everyone will enjoy. It is also a bad habit to snatch other people’s chance to speak during a debate or even interrupting when one is speaking. Each and every group member has to be given an equal chance of speaking without interruption, regardless of expressing divergent ideas from the rest. Being on the forefront and talking more than everybody does not actually brand you a perfect team member but rather a ‘know it all’ member who cannot pause to give other people chances to talk. Making relevant and short contributions in the discussion is quite enough and will give everyone a chance of speaking (Mannix& Neale,2005).
In any discussion, shouting or even dominating is not encouraged. Members are supposed to keep their emotions under proper control. Don’t try to dominate the discussion or allow your emotions rule overcome you. Showing off also will scare away other group members and make them reluctant of sharing what they know. You need to share what you know in your best understanding on any subject during the group discussions but one need to be extremely careful about the thin separation between showing off and sharing knowledge(Caruso &Wooley, 2008).
Despite the numerous advantages accrued to studying in groups, working as a team presents challenges as well as disadvantages in the realm of conversations. After a disagreement in a group work, it will most likely take a lot of time to repair the broken human relationship ties in a group. Also, a group may generate conflicts which hurt the feeling of people which will eventually undermine their relationships. In an open group discussion, there are chances that one may misunderstand messages and intentions of other group members. And lastly, some group members might even attempt to manipulate, deceive or betray the fellow members (Caruso&Wooley,2008).
From another perspective of view, I realized that in a team relation, it takes averagely longer duration to reach on a solid decision. Most students view groups as a mean of dividing tasks, but those ambitious students will engage in deeper conversations and debates which will consume a lot of time, thus delaying the completion of a given assignment. Even though end results might be improved, decision making often consume more time in groups. This is because individuals cannot just go with their own instinct or idea. They have to introduce work and ideas through group conflicts to arrive at a consensus.
All said and done about group work, there is numerous stuff one is entitled to learn as well as gain from a team work. In the period that we were working together as a team, I got an opportunity to learn much more of group working than I had expected. For instance, group work can help those students who do not have courage to talk during class time to express their mind. Groups also give chance to weaker students to be taught concepts they did not grasp while in class by their fellow students. It is believed that a student is likely to understand faster what he is taught by his fellow than he can understand during class lectures.
Another importance I learnt about teamwork is that working in a team increases efficiency. This is because groups develop strategies that enable them to complete the assigned tasks quickly and more efficiently. Similarly, there is enough support available in case one of the group members breaks down or is committed and not able to deliver the assigned task.
Working together as a team also enables students to share their own knowledge and experiences to each other. That pooled knowledge makes it quite easier to tackle even difficult assignments with different facets. If a student works individually on an assignment, he might end up struggling with some aspects due to limited experience. In a group, one can draw on the knowledge of his fellow students and probably expand his own knowledge bank.
Caruso, H.M., &Wooley, A.W. (2008). Harnessing the power of emergent interdependence to promote diverse team collaboration.Diversity and Groups. 11, 245-266.
Flynn, E. W., & La, F. J. F. (2002). Group discussion as learning process: A sourcebook. New York: Paulist Press.
Lago, C., & MacMillan, M. (1999). Experiences in relatedness: Groupwork and the person- centred approach. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS.
Mannix, E., & Neale, M.A. (2005).What differences make a difference? The promise and reality of diverse teams in organizations.Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 6(2), 31- 55.
Robert, L. D. (2010). Action Learning and its Applications. Palgrave Macmillan.