Team Work

  • Reading together
  • What do the pros say about teams?

Reading together

  • When with your partner you take turns identifying key points, explaining them, and writing things down, the chances are very good that you will each see things differently, give each other a chance to see this difference, and both profit from the comparison
  • When with your partner you read and discuss a passage a second time, you will discover new things, idea of the passage will change, and so you will have not only two interpretations, but a method for moving from one to the other and remembering both: “he who reads a page once, reads the same page everywhere” (Barthes)
  • When with your partner you nod while listening, bobbing your head up and down when you understand and to the side when you don’t, your partner will be alternately confirm, challenged, and given a chance to move forward and explain herself better.
  • When with your partner you shake your head to the side and your partner tries to explain things again, this second or third time she will do so differently, and if done right this provides both of you with a chance to explore how differently things might be explained: the reason is, we respond to the terms of our listener — as we hear in this discussion of Vigotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development
  • And we do so intentionally: when with your partner we you work with others, all kinds of other things are going on — as you will see in this example of Asking for and offering help.

Teams vs. Groups

Businesses capitalize on such teams. Consider how differently co-workers cooperate, as you see in this illustration, when management organizes groups and teams. In groups, organized from the top-down, we see people working in silos, doing as they have been told; but in teams we see them working in various combinations to offer solutions: the manager of teams sets the goals and agenda, but transfers authority and responsibility to the collective.

In teams, we are not simply, or simple, followers, because in teams we assume an active role, we see ourselves in this together, take responsibility for the entire enterprise.

How to do your homework in teams

In this illustration from a bizapps class years ago, you see how a blogging group represented themselves as all stitched in together and how they confirmed it by identifing the topics and keywords their blog posts shared in the manner of tags (that they assigned to their weekly posts, what topics you find shared in their posts. You read how they talked about it on blog still online here.

  • We met together and discussed the exercise, and decided, first, to read the text …
  • We discussed the topic, and learned about info systems and …
  • Then Lorena showed me the bubble diagram and how to do it and I showed her my mind map and we compared notes…
  • We found, that Lorena's diagram was clearer than mine, because … the layout …

That is, it is one thing to present a diagram and say to the teacher: “here, I did my homework, give me a good grade!” But it is quite another when you make a diagram, discuss it with someone, in the process identify the reasons it works and does not work, and so: a) check your understanding, b) clarify your thought, c) write things up to remember. Here’s what to do:

  • Transform yourselves from a group or individuals looking out only for yourself to a team where you are mutually dependent, maybe unsure at first, but through conversation check, clarify, and write up to understand
  • Do so by comparing your diagrams or notes, explaining why they are different, how they work differently, and which one might be better and why
  • Look for other kinds of diagrams, other ways of explaining (this text), so that you have not one way, not simply two ways, and not simply more … but also, so that you learn how to learn new ways …
  • Reflect and write up what happened, including your feelings, so that your portfolio is a record or not simply changes in understanding, but transformation — how, as you learn, you develop competence, confidence, and so have good reason to hold your head high!

What do the pros say about teams?

As with all of my explanations, I didn’t make it up: I learned through study and sometimes experience, especially here in the classroom. I have found MANY discussions of teams that ring true, including many that review studies, offer case studies, and which are supported by people who really know these things. If I can learn these things this way, so can you!

The Harvard Assessment Seminars, Richard Light.

Teams often contribute mightily to motivation, direction, learning, achievement, and happiness. Writing “stretches” the mind, puts student work in the center of discussion, and offers them a chance to benefit from each other’s insights. Weekly papers offer valuable practice, provide frequent opportunities for feedback, and often by asking the simplest of questions: “What’s the big idea?” “What’s unclear?” See also: