Monday, September 28, 2015

Collaboration and Teamwork

Collaboration and Teamwork--it is not easy! Even as adults many of us struggle with how to best work in teams.  Almost every week I see a funny cartoon making the social media rounds that describes the different members of a team (not so kindly).  I look back on my engineering career before I became a teacher and I remember those certain 'team meetings' that I dreaded attending each week!

But even with all of the challenges that teams cause, I strongly believe that teamwork is a critical learning component for students.  While there are some life choices that do not lead to constant teamwork, I believe that most will require some level of collaboration.  Each year I begin my enrichment classes discussing the idea of teamwork with students.  I think it is important to let students know that it is difficult, to give them tools to make it easier, and to help them see the positive power of collaboration.

After discussing the reasons teamwork is important, we make a list of reasons teamwork might be positive (this gives us some back up for those frustrating times!)Here are some of the ideas that students have generated about teamwork:

-Teamwork is fun
-When you don't know the answer someone else in your group might
-When you have more people you can work faster
-When you are in a team different people can have different jobs that they are good at
-You get more ideas and you are more creative when you work with more people

What might you add to this list?

Next, we do a variety of teambuilding and collaborative challenges.

We learn to turn and talk with each other (listening as well as sharing).

We create clay sculptures in pairs ( not two different sculptures, but one agreed upon one!)

We build towers out  of spaghetti and marshmallows or straws and tape.

We have successes and we have failures, but with each project we celebrate working together AND we figure out ways to make teamwork easier.  Is it all fun and cheering?  Unfortunately, no.  There are times of frustration over sharing of materials, or rejection of ideas, there are disappointments at fallen towers or unfinished sculptures......but teamwork is not easy and by working together we will continue to improve our collaboration skills. My hope for students is that through our shared experiences they will come to enjoy working as part of a team and have some strategies to make the quality of their participation both fun and meaningful.

Do you have to work as part of a team for your job?  We would love to hear from you with some real world examples of why teamwork is important (you can leave a comment on this blog, or feel free to contact me directly).


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