Learning teams multiply the success for all
“TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More”
When teamwork comes up in a discussion, fans of the concept point to the pyramids, grand European palaces or any other epic task as a triumph of collective effort. Tackling tasks as a team works for obvious reasons: More resources are available to apply toward project tasks and more individuals to contribute creative and strategic thoughts toward a positive outcome. In addition, a united team creates greater depth of experience and expertise than a single individual.
University of Phoenix features learning teams in their undergraduate and advanced classes because learning to collaborate is a skill that’s transferable to many different areas of life. Yes, together we can accomplish more — but what does teamwork do for the individual, particularly in an academic setting? As it turns out, plenty.
Personal benefits of a learning team approach
Studies indicate that small learning teams help students advance their own learning, while supporting the learning of their team (Moraga and Rahn, 2006). In comparison to traditional classroom settings, Moraga and Rahn’s study states that students in a cooperative learning environment had higher academic achievement, greater persistence through graduation, better high-level reasoning skills, higher self-esteem and more.
Irene Blundell, a University of Phoenix faculty member, agrees that learning teams are beneficial. “Students learn to work with different types of personalities and develop leadership skills. In these teams, they must hold themselves accountable and have the opportunity to hold others accountable for the good of the team.”
Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits that learning teams can deliver to students:
Enhance critical thinking
Interaction within a group spurs an exchange of ideas, which can lead to greater engagement in the task and within the group. Exploration allows new ideas to be uncovered and evaluated to determine whether they align with the parameters of the project and can be accomplished. The team process also allows members to assess teammates’ ideas, performance and the group’s progress toward its collective goal offering opportunities to develop critical thinking skills.
In learning teams, leadership often rotates from project to project. This offers team members the opportunity to act in a leadership role. In addition to sharpening critical thinking skills (which contributes to effective decision-making) the team approach helps individuals gain experience by acting as leader. This type of responsibility also enhances accountability to team members and the task.
Learn to lead … and follow
In a team of peers, there can be opportunities to learn how to lead and to follow. Blundell sees this as a critical skill for her students in the College of Humanities and the College of Natural Sciences. “It takes special skills to lead and follow and learning to know when to do each. ‘When do I take a leadership role? When do I step back and how do I recognize the leader within myself?’ You have to think critically and say, ‘This is how I see it,’ in a safe environment.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the student is also important to the process. According to The Team Building Directory, a website that provides advice and information on team building, good team members have a number of qualities, including the ability to share openly and focus on the team and its goals. If students approach their learning team experience with a positive attitude and a willingness to work for the good of the group, they will likely walk away with unique benefits that shine in real world situations.