Expectations in a Group

Our class Saturday at 3600 West Broad Street was interesting. For one, the faces of classmates are starting to look familiar. And the professors keep changing, so, the format of the class, and those micro-expectations for how class is supposed to go keep shifting a little each time. Our professor this time was Cheri and the topic was the Five Dysfunctions.

In the morning we made our own groups and had an activity; in the afternoon, we were pre-selected into new groups. Our first group was generally respectful of one another; we got along, shared ideas, and I got a good vibe from my peers. In the afternoon, the stakes got higher, and we had certain things we had to articulate. First individually, then as a group.

Our team members were so focused on choosing the best answers, and I’m not sure if everyone realized this was all an exercise. The more important aspect was how we got along. Cheri asked us to reflect on how working in this group went; I found this time distracting, as most folks got up to leave, and good-byes were being exchanged.

I found the collaborative things we were to be doing frustrating and difficult for the lack of tools we had. We were exchanging information about one another, such as our LCI and MBTI scores. Only one member wrote them down; and I remembered feeling so frustrated when I didn’t have access to this information.

I suspect it’s my desire to have a visual reference to things I am considering. I do this a lot when planning; I need to see everything out in the open. The discussions taking place, too, were distracting, I wanted my introspective cocoon to make sense of the task.

The most frustrating thing was that despite the fact we had laptops with us, they were only used for one task in the class: to look up a poem by Charles Osgood to read independently. We could have been provided this on a handout. And yet, with a collaborative tool (like Google Wave, or even a Google Doc), the process of working in a team would have been simplified and enhanced.

The thing I notice most about working with educators outside my division is the different ease with which folks use technology. We tend to gravitate towards Google Apps and wikis. The note-taking style is divided for sure; if folks are going to use a laptop, they’re in Word. If they have an iPad, I think they’re just still figuring it out. And it seems more folks are using paper notebooks to document notes in class.

My thinking right now is a type of analysis of the class and how technology could have enhanced it. Two SMART boards were used, and the tools used were Word and PowerPoint. Students used the Web. Blackboard wasn’t utilized since the professor said she didn’t have access. Some folks found it difficult to get online. I helped a few myself.

I am not sure using, say, a Google Site to structure class would have been significantly more productive, but it would have enabled more collaboration across the large class. It would have maintained artifacts to be referenced later. And yet – how do we get there? What’s the expectation for how a group collaborates and works together?

I think this expectation comes from observation of behavior (what are others doing), what’s comfortable, and what’s typical for the environment.

The point of this session, I think, was to evaluate how the characteristics of our teams affected the tasks we were given to work on. I found two folks in my group emerged as vocal leaders, they took it upon themselves to sort through the various ideas and choose the best ones. I am not sure they were aware that they automatically favored their own ideas. Our method of collaboration without established trust was to look for commonalities, which isn’t a bad thing, but it discarded more unique, outlying ideas which may still have been good ones. These two were the extroverts in our team of introverts. It was also interesting to note that some felt comfortable using their laptops to process input; others adopted a notepad.

I think as an intellectual side-project for me as we move forward, is to note how members of the class use, and adopt over time, technologies to facilitate our tasks. As a cursory thought, I’m wondering how many folks actually went through the Five Dysfunctions routine before, as I have. Re-reading the book and considering the pyramid model was helpful as I reflected on progress made this year in our own teams at work.




Filed under Learning Reflections

2 responses to “Expectations in a Group

  1. Charol Shakesaft

    This is a very helpful critique. e’re still learning. You’ve thrown out some ideas, but it would be very helpful if I could learn from you. How would you have done this class using technology? Specifically, if I said to you, we have a new group and I want you to teach this class this day, what would you do?

    Charol Shakeshaft

    • I’m not positive what I wrote was planned as a critique; I find it fascinating watching how others work. Which tools do they pick up? How do folks collaborate? Considering different personalities, it has been most interesting at each juncture to observe. And I have to admit, I find it comfortable to observe as an INTJ.

      I would use technology to allow everyone input into a single document, so it was available to all, editable by all. Likely the most accessible tool for simultaneous editing at this point would be a Google Document. In fact, the professor could create the documents, and then share them to each group ahead of time, instead of using index cards. When we open up Google Docs, we see the prompt, and we can see by user name who is in our group. We can switch tables, introduce one another, and then get to work through the discussion.

      This way, as we work, the instructor can monitor the progress of each group. This can be done without the technology, of course, by circulating and listening. So far, our professors have been doing this. But the newer tool is a little more precise. Will people own their ideas? They’re getting written down for all to see.

      We did group activities with Dr. Ballard at Patrick Henry High School. Again – if we were using technology – we could have voted on which group we thought each was, before it was revealed. Technology use in the program ought to not only facilitate and deepen the learning experience, but it should also model good pedagogy. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to learn a new technique or tool to be able to bring back to educators in our own neighborhoods.

      Blogs can be used as groupthink note-taking tools. If we used our blogs to post our notes, as well as our more personal thoughts, then we have a version of notes from each student in class. I find value in being able to see the perspective of my colleagues, to have heard the things I missed, or for them to question my own hearing. This is collaborative sharing. Notes in a notebook are personal. Digital notes are sharable.

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