Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What does it mean to be a team player?

"Learning to be a team player" is an oft-cited goal of today's classrooms, and the reason why so many students spend so much time working in groups.

Most of the time, most of these groups will be unsupervised: a classroom teacher with 28 students divided into 6 or 7 groups can only monitor a fraction of what's going on within these groups at any given moment in time. Meanwhile, groups of students, whether they are 6 years old or 16 years old, have trouble staying on task. They may argue, they may goof off, and some of them may opt out and free-ride on their groups mates. The result, in comparison with solo learning environments, is reduced academic achievement.

Is it worth it? Do the social skills obtained by group learning outweigh the academic sacrifice?

I asked a friend of mine who regularly engages in team work at a large law firm.

"Team work," she explained, "means dividing a big task into subtasks, and being able to do your subtask well enough that I don't have to do it over for you."

She's sick and tired, she explained, of the many new hires who know how the schmooze, banter, and charm, yet lack the rigorous analytic training that they need to function as competent team players.

1 comment:

Marcy said...

I seem to recall always having to work in groups. That's not particularly new. I hated them as a child and I hated them in grad school. It's always the same problem. You have to bring the slower learners up to speed and try to get everyone on task. Or you can sit back and let the group founder under a collective "duhhh". It might be good practice for work, but maybe also a disincentive to ever wanting to work at all.