Thursday, April 17, 2014

Team vs. Individual Work

Throughout my college career, there's been a lot of individual work and group work. At times, I've been pleased and frustrated with my experiences with both. I recently had a discussion with a friend where I mentioned how all of my classes this semester have the class split up into table groups, with lots of collaboration and teamwork. She thought this was very odd since all of her classes were the opposite way. This really caused me to start thinking about the collaboration that happens in my education classes and if I enjoyed this way of learning or not.

As I began thinking, I remembered how a few years ago I was extremely shy and didn't enjoy collaboration or working with other people very much. I preferred to work alone when possible and didn't enjoy the times when I was forced to do group projects or rely on others for my success. This isn't my outlook now, however. I enjoy the collaboration that goes on in my classes and most times I'm very pleased with the outcomes of my interactions with my classmates. Sure, there are still times when I work by myself. However, I value the teamwork and relationships that I am making with my peers and am learning how to collaborate with people, which will be valuable someday in my teaching career.

I think that I can use dogsleds as an analogy (we'll see if it makes sense :).

Photo by Uryah, commons.wikimedia.org,
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuzori_Kusatsu_1994_1_30_03.jpg
A single dog pulling a sled has nothing wrong with it, in fact, it's very functional. The dog can run fast and pull its passenger to where they need to go. They can navigate easily and react to the rider as necessary. If that's the purpose of the rider, one dog can serve their needs quite nicely. In the same way, individual work can be great for a certain situation. Some things can be quickly done by an individual and don't require other people to get accomplished.



Photo by Accretion Disc, Flickr.com,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/befuddledsenses/12740967044/sizes/n/ 

On the other hand, a team of dogs serve a different purpose. They may not respond to the rider as quickly as a lone dog, but they can pull a large load of cargo or multiple passengers. They have more stamina than a single dog, and they work as a team to carry the sled where it needs to go. Likewise, with group work, a larger load can be carried. More work can be done because the task is split up between members. Each member has a distinct contribution to the group, and the group as a whole is often able to do more than an individual working alone would be able to do.


Now that I've had so much experience with team work, I am learning to value it more than I ever have before. I still value individual tasks, and I think that they have their place. However, depending on the situation, group work and individual work both have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Collaboration is an amazing tool that can work to teachers' advantage, but it can be time consuming and difficult to perform effectively, as described in this blog post by the NWEA. What do you think? Is collaboration the way to go?

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