Week 2 reading

Group development and team roles

Group activities or collaborative tasks are commonly recommended in the educational literature for enhancing student learning and developing transferrable and professional skills. One of the more common initial reactions from teachers to this suggestion is a brief look of panic and an almost imperceptible flinch. Group work can be messy, and it can take a lot of organising. But when teamwork works well, it works very well for learning.

One of the key ingredients to effective teamwork is taking the time and making the effort to define roles and tasks. Online or face-to-face, students involved in group work need support with team working skills. Here are some key ideas about team work in general to think about.

Tuckman's 1965 group development sequence is one of several models that remains popular. It suggests four stages to group development (a fifth stage was added later but it isn’t really relevant here):

Jaques and Salmon (2007) present a seven-stage process of online group development based on Johnson and Johnson (1987). The stages are:

  1. Defining and structuring procedures
  2. Conforming to procedures and getting acquainted
  3. Recognising mutuality and building trust
  4. Rebelling and differentiating
  5. Committing to and taking ownership for the goals, procedures and other members
  6. Functioning maturely and productively
  7. Terminating

As a group participant it can be helpful to think through questions like, 'at which stage of this process are we presently operating?' and 'how can we move forward to stage 6?' Whereas, as an online tutor, the questions are more about how groups can be best supported to move efficiently through these stages.

Belbin’s (1981) team roles are helpful to think about. Which of these describe you? What about your fellow team members: have you categorised any of them using these sorts of headings from their online behaviours so far?

Are our online personas the same as our face-to-face ones? Or do people behave differently online? What are the implications of these observations for managing online groups? Salmon (2002) offers 9 patterns of online participation. Which of these describe you? Salmon gives suggestions for how the e-moderator should respond to each type. Just looking at the types, are there any responses that suggest themselves to you?

What are your team’s tasks? What roles do you need to allocate? What will be your schedule? Discuss and decide these things in your private group topic, then post your game plan into your group discussion area.