Monday, April 14, 2014

Team vs. Individual Work

Photo retrieved from YoVenice flickr
In terms of which is more successful, the debate between team work and individual work has persisted for many, many years. The first real-world example that came to mind when thinking about teams versus individual success was sports. Sports! Weird, right? I'm not a super athletic or sports-lover in any way, but the Olympic athletes popped into my head as I thought about this controversial topic. Think about it--how did Shaun White get to where he is now? He's been competing as an Olympic athlete since he was sixteen years old. As an individual. He gets complete credit for all of his tremendous accomplishments. What about the United States' Men's Olympic Basketball Team that won the gold medal in 2012? They were just as successful as Shaun, but the credit is spread among the whole team, but is it spread evenly? How do we know that Lebron James contributed equally as Kevin Durant? We don't.

Photo retrieved from Wikipedia
In a classroom setting, the debate between individual student work and team work exists in almost the same way. There are valid arguments for each side, as this article by Grethel Gahler from Toggl Blog describes. Grethel says that a benefit of working individually lets you be your own boss and make your own decisions; you decide what to do and when. Personally, I prefer working individually. I am a hard worker (most of the time) and I try my best to avoid procrastination. It drives me up the wall when I'm forced to work in a group setting and I have to play mom and constantly remind a team member to get things done so we can keep the ball rolling--it makes me irate. I've had a few good experiences in group settings in which all of my team members contributed in a timely manner, but only a few.

This article from the University of Arkansas gives an abundance of reasons why group work is more effective while identifying ways to increase the success of group work. Some strategies for group work include:
  • Plan for each stage of work
  • Carefully explain to your class how the groups will operate and how students will be graded
  • Give students the skills they need to succeed in groups
  • Create group tasks that require interdependence
  • Make the group work relevant
While I realize there's no perfect answer to this question, as a future educator I realize that just because I prefer working alone doesn't mean all of my students will too. It's important to switch up group work versus individual work for the sake of meeting all of my students needs. Much like every other topic, strategy, theory and method, it's for the students!

1 comment:

  1. Very good post, Emma. I may incorporate some of your information in to my future group assignments