Teaching teamwork skills through reflection

Teamwork is a skill that is vital to professional success yet is not taught in schools. Courses often utilize teamwork with the intent of allowing students to become better at it, but it is never explicitly taught. In previous blogs, I have aired the exact same grievances regarding giving presentations. I am embarrassed that I had failed to recognize teamwork as a vital skill that is similarly neglected with respect to education.

I appreciate Dr. Murzi’s inclusion of this point into the Contemporary Pedagogy course because I don’t believe I would have recognized the need to teach teamwork skills otherwise. I am also very grateful that he is providing somewhat of an instruction manual for doing so, since I have no idea how to teach this skill set, nor would I consider myself a particularly good teammate.

In line with case-based learning, Murzi et al. (2020) actually turns the learning over to the teammates themselves. While a professor does initially give a lecture on teamwork (which I do feel is valuable), most of the learning appears to come from doing – and reflecting. By reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, and challenges faced in displaying effective teamwork, students can begin to recognize how they can best handle situations as a teammate.

With all the group projects and group work I was forced to do as a student, I never once thought about or processed the team dynamics. Instead, I was only focused on getting the project done so that I could forget about the (often traumatizing) group work experience. Little did I realize I was robbing myself of the opportunity to learn a very important life skill. But now I can give my future students the opportunity to learn teamwork skills and in a simple way.

6 Replies to “Teaching teamwork skills through reflection”

  1. Tanya,
    I think you highlight an important point here, one that Dr. Murzi was also trying to draw attention to. Many students (including myself) often find group projects frustrating. In reality, however, these experiences (even the frustrating parts) are important lessons for the real world. I think taking sometime to highlight the importance of teamwork, as you and Dr. Murzi point out, is key to students seeing the value in the activity. Sometimes taking that extra step to be explicit about what you hope students will get out of the project/course goes a long way in helping their learning. Thanks for your post!

  2. I have felt the same way about teamwork for the most part of my education. A hardworking student usually carries the weight of the other teammates and ends up doing more work if the task was individual. We lacked an effective teamwork guideline that could prevent such a scenario.

  3. You make a great point about not processing the team dynamics. It seems like every undergrad team project is formulated the exact same way. The group initially meets and divvies the work, but group members drop off immediately afterwards and the others (or in many cases, one unfortunate soul) must pick up the slack. Understanding team dynamics in a PBL case can go a long way to ensure everyone not only splits the work fairly but also to equalize the learning experience.

  4. Hi Tanya.
    Thanks for sharing this important topic. Problem based learning is a successful method that teaches teamwork skills in which small teams of students with different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Two heads are better than one! PBL pushes students to use teamwork skills that are necessary for success in the project as well as later in life. Also, teachers as a facilitator of this project, they can set clear criteria to ensure that each student’s work will be evaluated such as observation of individuals within the group, each teammate comes up with at least one solution for the problem, etc.

    Good Luck!

    Rania

  5. I read another blog that mentioned teamwork, and I realized the same exact thing that you are mentioning—teamwork is not explicitly taught but students are placed in a team situation and more or less are expected to figure out how to work collaboratively and complete a project. In the class that I teach, my students work in groups of two and three, and I believe I can do more to teach on teamwork/collaboration. Currently, I help students articulate the strengths and weaknesses in teamwork, but I can do more by providing them with a case study and a structure that sets them up for successful collaboration. I made note of this very issue so that I can research to improve my pedagogical practices as it relates to this topic.

  6. Hi Tanya! I enjoyed reading your post. I, too, was an undergrad student who had no clue that my instructor was using PBL when we had to do group projects! This new knowledge gives me more empathy for my teachers when they would encourage that I turn to my peers for answers. I didn’t realize the intention here because I have always turned to my teacher for the answers, as opposed to going directly to my classmates; I didn’t like associating my success in a class with my peers’ success. I think this speaks to how I was socialized as an American because there’s a much bigger emphasis on individualism rather than collectivism in the US. One thing I am left wondering, if you were to adapt the ‘groupwork’ process, what would you change or shift so that it feels like equal work between members?

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