Working in small groups at the middle school level can be a daunting task and a new one at that. Please realize that each student is responsible for work accomplished and that this work is accessed both with observation and what was turned in. However, the majority of ‘effort’ is an observable variable. Even though a turned in project may be nearly ‘perfect,’ one person in the team may have been the one to do most of the work. This could be because of many reasons.
Why work in groups? Five Things Students Can Learn through Group Work
Here are some suggestions that might be helpful
Elements that lead to effective teams
- Identify a leader
This is not to say that this person does all the work. See more at 10 TEAM DYNAMICS FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE
- Focus on the goal
- Establish roles and responsibilities + discuss what each person ‘brings to the table’
Discuss and be candid about the equality of work load. Everyone MUST talk during this conversation.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate
But…be careful – accomplishing goals usually take action, not just talk
- Tackle problems quickly
Acknowledge when you have problems. Identify the problem first. Talk/Discuss/Negotiate. Know that you might not always get ‘your way.’
- Be open to new…
Possibilities, strategies, ideas. You’re in a group. Your ideas may be good, but other ideas may be better. Don’t let this stop you from participating.
- Work as a team; Be accountable for yourself
Students are considerably less likely to leave all the work to more responsible classmates if they know their individual performance will affect their grade. See more at Carnegie Mellon
Indications of Poor Team Dynamics
This happens when team members behave in a way that disrupts the flow of information in the group. Blocking types include: the aggressor, the negator, the withdrawer, the recognition seeker, the joker, See more at MindTools
- Free riding
“Some group members take it easy, and leave their colleagues to do all the work. Free riders may work hard on their own, but limit their contributions in group situations; this is known as “social loafing.” See more at MindTools
More reading on poor team dynamics
- In 2008, a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon, M.I.T. and Union College began to try to answer a question very much like this one. ‘‘Over the past century, psychologists made considerable progress in defining and systematically measuring intelligence in individuals,’’ the researchers wrote in the journal Science in 2010. ‘‘We have used the statistical approach they developed for individual intelligence to systematically measure the intelligence of groups.’’ Put differently, the researchers wanted to know if there is a collective I. Q. that emerges within a team that is distinct from the smarts of any single member.
- To accomplish this, the researchers recruited 699 people, divided them into small groups and gave each a series of assignments that required different kinds of cooperation. One assignment, for instance, asked participants to brainstorm possible uses for a brick. Some teams came up with dozens of clever uses; others kept describing the same ideas in different words. Another had the groups plan a shopping trip and gave each teammate a different list of groceries. The only way to maximize the group’s score was for each person to sacrifice an item they really wanted for something the team needed. Some groups easily divvied up the buying; others couldn’t fill their shopping carts because no one was willing to compromise.