Keys to Great Group Work

Not gonna lie, I am pretty darn thrilled with the group work produced by my two sophomore classes and my AP Lit class. I pretty much gave you a task to explore growth mindset and then the freedom to get the job done in a way that worked best for the individuals in your groups. And what did you do?

You chose your own work locations, and you did the work. You explored the Collaboration Labs and made using HDMI cables routine. You made infographics in Google Slides, in Google Drawing, in Piktochart, in Prezi, and on big paper using markers and your own imaginations. You rewarded the trust I put in you by taking responsibility for your work and each other. The way this worked out, the content of the work is almost less important than the process you went through to do it.

Over the years, through conversations with alumni in college and a lot of reading about the modern workplace, I have come to believe that collaboration truly is an essential skill for future success. A couple of years ago, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine about Google’s Project Aristotle, where the company discovered that the way that people work together was even more important than the expertise of each individual, and that groups who focus only on the task are actually less productive than groups that allow themselves to go off-topic from time to time.

According to the literature Google has produced since then, the off-task behaviors tended to lead to a sense of “psychological safety,” which, among other qualities, allowed the group members to develop a greater sense of trust in one another, which allowed them to more readily accommodate others’ ideas and contribute ideas that led to innovation rather than more certain outcomes.

What Google found, and what you did in the first three days of class, shows that the qualities of effective workplace collaboration are certainly applicable to schools, whether we’re talking about small group work or whole class groups that work together to achieve a common goal. We already know that an unstressed learner is a more effective learner; now we know that groups that share a few laughs are more likely to produce better work.

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