More Teamwork, Less Group work: 27 Ways To Build A Team

by Ashley McCann

Teamwork can be an effective way to encourage classroom camaraderie and to expose students to new ideas, mindsets, and challenges to share and work through with their peers. But how many times in school did you find yourself doing group work without it being a true collaborative process? As in, picking up the slack for others at the last minute, after a frustrating dose of poorly divided labor and a lack of communication? Not all group work is teamwork.

The word team has a connotation of a united front, a selected group who trains and works together towards a common goal and is committed to the success of not only their selves, but the other members. A team is more meaningful and intentional than a group, and therefore offers a different depth of experience and education — teamwork is better than group work any day and that kind of inclusivity is good for the classroom beyond the project at hand.

Here are 27 ways to build a team that will teach students how to truly work together instead of as individuals near each other. In lieu of some typos we’re not able to correct because it’s not our file or graphic, hopefully you find some value in the ideas Mia shared.

See Also: 10 Team-Building Games For A Friendlier Classroom

Recognize the need for a team

Does the project or activity lend itself well to collaborative work and division of tasks? Are there enough components to the project to necessitate multiple people working on it?

Demonstrate the need for a team

Once you’ve recognized the need for a team, demonstrate that need to the class. Either play a game, present a problem that requires teamwork, or discuss real world examples that benefit from working together.

Show the outcomes

Find a way to demonstrate the difference between the end result of a problem solved with teamwork and as an individual. Were the outcomes of the finished product different? Was one way more effective?

Sell the need for a team

Explain how the project at hand will benefit from working together, and the importance of recognizing it as a multi-faceted experience with different roles to be filled. 

Assess skills and knowledge

Determine the strengths and skills of each potential team member with some form of pre-assessment to evaluate existing knowledge and ability.

Create diverse teams

Decide how to form each team, carefully considering the strengths and weaknesses of each member and how they might benefit from the group dynamic.

Encourage bonding

Kick off the bonding process within the teams and between them by issuing a challenge or playing a game where they compete against each other.

Facilitate the discussion

Help keep the conversation going within groups by moving around the classroom and facilitating discussion. Ask questions about their brainstorming process, resources they’ll be using, or potential outcomes.

Supply materials

Make sure each team has access to the materials, supplies, and content that will allow them to accomplish the task at hand with creativity and resourcefulness.

Watch for those without a voice

As you’re facilitating discussion, keep an eye out for the students who aren’t feeling heard or are hesitant to participate. Draw them into the conversation and encourage others to listen to each member.

Ask about roles

Would establishing roles be helpful while dividing up the work? Ask students to consider if the team would benefit from assigning roles with clear jobs or responsibilities.

Present the product

Have each team present the outcome of their project, deciding who will be primarily in charge of the presentation and how other members can support them.

Debrief later

Take time as a class to discuss the overall outcome of the project. Ask how teamwork helped or hindered the project and what they could have done differently as a team to work together more effectively.

Take breaks

Scheduling in some down time may actually help teams stay on track. Sometimes a break is necessary in order to stay refreshed and productive.

Discover each other

A successful team usually shares a personal connection that helps everyone remain committed to the others’ success. Create opportunities for team members to get to know each other beyond the scope of the project.

Have them set rules

Encourage each team to make a set of rules or code of conduct to prevent or mediate any potential issues.

Help them speak up

It’s important for each member to feel included and heard. Ask team members to discuss how to best make sure their team members are given the space and a voice to express their ideas and opinions.

Have fun and play

Break the ice and build connection by making time for fun. Play a silly game that allows everyone to get involved or set up a friendly competition between teams.

Point out the good

Make a point of identifying the positive aspects of each team’s interactions and compliment them on it.

Work through conflict

Use conflict as a learning experience. Outline ideas for identifying and solving conflict, including seeking out the advice of other teams.

Escape route

If it becomes clear that a student is uncomfortable in a way that cannot be resolved, allow for a break or change of plans or team.

Mix up teams

Once the project is finished, mix up the groups to form new teams for the next project for the added benefit of a range of experience with different personalities.

Grade fairly

Make sure individuals are graded on their own work and recognized for their own efforts.

Reporting concerns

Have the teams create a chain of command to resolve concerns and conflict in case an issue arises with a member or task.

Grow with each other

Teach your students how to ask questions that will create depth in conversations and a broader understanding of perspective within the team.

Reward good work

Recognize exemplary efforts with a reward so that teams have a clear example of what good teamwork looks like.

Have a reason

Again, a team without a connection is just a group. Make sure projects involving teams have purpose — there’s no point in a team if you’re just going to lecture. Create opportunities for collaboration, conflict resolution, and problem solving

Each classroom acts as its own little community, a social sphere that would ideally allow each student to meet their full potential while experiencing and contributing to the lives of others. Classroom teamwork is an opportunity to try on different roles and allows students to experiment with how they fit into the world around them on a smaller (and safer) scale.

See Also: 10 Team-Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking

More Teamwork, Less Group work: 27 Ways To Build A Team