Working in Groups

Learning and Working in Groups

From the beginning of our Master of Arts: Learning and Technology program, we have been working and learning in a variety of teams.  The dynamic of working and learning in different teams in a very short amount of time forces the individual team members to adapt very quickly.  For many this is a new experience and quite foreign to how they would work on a daily basis in our respective professions.  By forcing us together to work in these team environments, you quickly realize that many of the skills you used when working alone may not necessarily translate to working in a group environment.  With four or five other team members to consider, skills like patience, flexibility, communication, and acceptance of new ideas are extremely important. 

Sarkisian states, “Asking students to work in small groups allows students to learn interactively”. Small groups are good for:

  • generating a broad array of possible alternative points of view or solutions to a problem
  • giving students a chance to work on a project that is too large or complex for an individual
  • allowing students with different backgrounds to bring their special knowledge, experience, or skills to a project, and to explain their orientation to others
  • giving students a chance to teach each other

 (Ellen Sarkisian, 1997)

Looking at our Myers-Briggs indicator type, my first inclination is to move ahead quickly to get the job done. When I am working alone or in my office this is how I work for about ninety percent of the time.  Understanding how individual work and process information is an important tool to working effectively in teams.

I have developed strategies to work effectively in a team setting by listening intently to what other team members are saying and accepting ideas from others that I may not have considered.  When our instructor, Hilary Leighton, talked to us about the importance of how we communicate, it really resonated with me.  People need to be heard and feel like they are making a contribution, therefore giving everyone an opportunity to contribute in a team environment is critical to the success of the team.

There is no doubt that working in a group generating a broad array of ideas, creating a plan of action, and then presenting those ideas in a coherent manner can be exciting and, albeit, frustrating at times.  By observing and participating in groups you really have an opportunity to learn from one another and share ideas, thus expanding your learning.


Ellen Sarkisian, (1997). Working in Groups. Retrieved July 31, 2011, from Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University



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2 responses to “Working in Groups

  1. Hi Shawn
    I think my post is cursed! This my third attempt to post here.

    I wanted to say how much I have enjoyed your blog. I have come back to it several times over the pat week or so because you look at the world in a different way than I do. Your thoughts on the classes and experiences in the program have sometimes helped me clarify, challenge, or confirm mine. It’s not that the learnings were different but the attitude and approach are.

    I wanted to thank you for the link to the Julian Treasure TED talk. Listening is part of the Language Arts curriculum across Canada in elementary but it may well be the most neglected. In the resources that I develop, we focus more on the external behaviours (not interrupting, giving feedback) than the internal strategies. This is something I will be taking back to work.

    • Hi Molly

      Thanks for checking in on my blog and your comments on listening. Listening is such an important skill to have and, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of communication. Sometimes I think people believe communication is all about speaking, but in my opinion they might be missing the most important part of the interaction. Earlier in the week, I learned so much by listening to the first nations Park Canada representative. (see earlier blog) She was incredibly interesting and because I was listening so intently, I can still see the words she spoke.

      Thanks again for the comments

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