The picture above was taken last year at the annual life guard's challenge on Fire Island, NY. Teams of life guards compete in life saving, relay races, and swimming competitions after a day of work. These teams are made up of life guards from 5 communities and one National Park. What is interesting is to see the level of interaction needed, especially in the life saving competition. Fire Island is a barrier Island off the coast of Long Island, commuting distance from New York City. I have been going down since I was born, and my mother has been going down for 80 years, spending her childhood summers down there. I (as I am sure many) take for granted the abilities of these lifeguards. However, a visitor to the beach before it opens in the morning will see the team training which makes these life guard teams function.
Tom Haskins has had a good series of posts on collaborative/group learning. My daughter's summer project was to interview 2 adults about team work. And I have been working on my dissertation looking at collaborative writing in the work place. I thought it might be good to post the questions both my daughter and I have been asking those in the workplace about team work.
My daughter had some guidelines for creating the questions (how to write good discussion questions, what factors about team work she should consider), but she had to develop her own questions (which will be part of her grade). In reviewing them, I thought they are important for teachers to address in developing any group assignment (begin the school year or semester with a discussion of these questions):
- In what way does your job demand teamwork?
- What traits do you look for in a person in order for them to work successfully in a team?
- What are some negative aspects of working in a team as opposed to working independently?
- What are some positive aspects of working in a group as opposed to working independently?
- What are some examples of when team work helped you in your job?
- What are some qualities you look for in a good team leader?
- While working on a team, how do you decide who has more say on certain matters?
- How do you make sure work is distributed evenly within a team?
- How do you handle a team member who is not handling their fair share of the work?
- How do you see yourself as a team leader; Do you take a passive role or a proactive role? Why is this?
I asked the following questions about group work for my dissertation:
- Where do you perceive your team or working group fits into the organization?
- What is your perception of how your team was created? In other words, who chose who would be on your team and why? What do you think was their basis for deciding on team members?
- When doing a written project as part of a group, what role or roles do you like to do? What role or roles do you usually do? Why?
- What, if anything, do you like about working in a group?
- What, if anything, do you dislike in working in a group?
- Can you describe to me your best experience in working in a group? Why do you consider this a good experience?
- Can you describe to me your worst experience in working in a group? Why do you consider this a poor experience?
- Have you ever worked with any of the other group members before?
- What are your perceptions of the other group members? What do you think they can contribute? What possible problems do you anticipate in working with them? who do you think will have the most influence on what goes into the quarterly report? Who do you think you will work best with and why? Who do you think you will learn the most from?
- Describe the best possible scenario of how you will be working with your group.
- Describe the worst possible scenario of how you will be working with your group.
- What other resources or expertise might you need outside of your group? Where would you get those resources/support?
- What other projects and project tasks will you be working on as you complete the group task?
Using Tom's guidelines, this would allow students the opportunity to discuss their expectations in working in a group. I also use group generated codes of conduct, based on the class discussions on expectations for group work. In a paper I coauthored a few years ago, we found that these codes made group work more acceptable for students, but did not necessarily improve the quality of the finished product.
Yonkers, V., & Buff, C. (2005). A Matter of Trust: Using Student Designed Codes of Conduct in Face-to-Face and Virtual Group Environments. Journal of Academy of Business and Economics (JABE). Presented at the International Academy of Business and Economics-2005, October 18, 2005, Las Vegas NV.