Working and learning in teams is a common feature of many modules in all universities. You may have lots of resources and guidance on your own University webpages. However, in this tool, we focus on those additional aspects that arise when being part of a team and working with an external collaborator.
Why use teams?
Teams are used when the learning tasks cannot be completed by an individual. A team allows more complex issues to be addressed, and also helps you develop important skills for your future employment.
Team working on a SEKE module can present many additional challenges. Firstly, the impact of any team dynamics. These problems can affect progress towards the need to deliver the expected outcome for an external client. In addition to this; clients may expect higher standards than what you previously may be used to at university in the classroom environment. Finally, the nature of external projects often brings unforeseen challenges and changes of scope and direction that require teams to be flexible and creative.
Teams and groups
A group is a collection of individuals working on the same task – they have no particular accountability to each other and are not held to account as a cohesive unit to produce something.
A team is generally a group of individuals working towards a common goal or objective, using combined methods and approaches for which they are mutually accountable.
Working closely with others isn't always easy. It may take time for an initial group to become a well developed team. But you can try to encourage social responsibility within your team, as it forms and develops, with simple things such as; valuing punctuality, and being respectful to others. Try to be supportive of other team members, offer constructive feedback where needed, and avoid criticism. Developing these habits early on within a project will help you build a successful and productive team.
Forming a team
An area that creates some anxiety and concerns in students is how a team is formed. Your tutor will normally oversee the way students are allocated to teams. You can often expect to be working with students you have not met before, and you might not always get a choice of who is in your team. Take a look at the tool Allocating Students to Teams to see the various ways in which tutors may form teams. You may find it helpful to read this, so that the process and choices are easier to understand, and you can engage with your tutor on this too.
Now that we have set out some key differences between a group and a team, look at the Becoming an Effective Team tool.