Is Collaboration Cheating?

Posted in News & Press  ·  July 5th 2016

‘Teams’ is how the world now operates. Sometimes, our school system may seem to suggest to young people that cooperation is cheating.  But teamwork is about helping them to produce good work through sharing their strengths.

Teachers will use discussion, reflection, encouragement, or even threats (whatever works!), but employers are saying that today’s young people need to develop a better sense of how they can collaborate to provide innovative solutions to challenges and problems.

Teamwork’s ultimate benefit is to help students think, learn, and operate in the new century by challenging them at deeper levels. Teamwork can teach students to find, process, understand, and share information; in other words, it can help students be more skilful and consequently make themselves more employable.

Groups or Teams – What’s the Difference? 

To illustrate this, we’ll focus on one of our favourite 21st century skills – collaboration.  In most projects, this is a key element, as well as a common source of problems.  A group of high-functioning adults can quickly form themselves into a team – 14-year olds, not so easily!

So, let’s start with football.  Notice that Man Utd never refer to themselves as a “group.” There’s a very good reason. Groups are different from “teams.”  (Or perhaps this is what has gone wrong this season!)

In groups, students sit together at a table and share, talk, plan and do some work. Teams, however, focus on performance, commitment and outcomes.

Groups might do the sort of thing that normally happens in a classroom. But high performance teams operate differently.  They have an explicit ethic of pulling together, service to others, listening to one another, attentiveness and shared leadership.  All these skills are required to turn out the highest quality product based on team effort.

So, a good first step is to stop thinking in terms of groups and start thinking in terms of teams. But perhaps we need a bit more than a simple word shift.  Practical steps are needed and we’ll look at a couple next time.

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