STEM Student asks “Do I have to work in a team?”

Problem solving and team collaboration in the classroom are tough processes for some high performing students who just want to get the assignment done.

Given a choice, would you rather work alone or work in a team?

NPR looks at the science behind the team and how you can learn from the best:

Parents and Students in Team Transition

I spent an hour after work on the phone with two parents who called regarding the fast approaching due date of the team video project in Biotechnology. When it comes to defusing a frustrated parent of a frustrated teenager who wants to work alone on their project, the comfort of a phone conversation is a better choice than a typed, dry email. This I have learned.

Both calls had happy endings, but each took their own path around the challenges of four teenagers meeting the due date of the final project. The first call seemed to be a rather easy course toward accomplishing a short list of “to do” items missing from their science video project with only 45 minutes of class time remaining in the semester.

The second call started off with the same rational, but ran into a cul-de-sac of team dynamics where the parent shared her hate for my class because all of her student’s grades are based on what his team does. I am sincerely appreciative of her honesty. After all, NPR exposed that the best teams are the teams that communicate. The best way I can meet someone’s needs is to know what they need.

I can tell that I’ve taught a STEM problem based learning classroom long enough to understand the logic behind her “hate” statement. Her hate was tethered to the familiar, old way of learning. Even though she said “your classroom”, I didn’t take it personal and it felt like a trophy; it felt as good as a pat on the back to confirm this learning environment had successfully moved beyond the passive methods of memorizing into the active learning of problem solving in teams.

I also understand that if our STEM science lab was a starting block on the journey of her student on his path down “team work” lane, I think we’d only be two inches down the road. Her student has a life-long path of good, bad, and indifferent experiences with dozens of teams in his future. He is vesting himself in teams from the middle school campus, to the sports field and courts, to the college campus, all the way to the corporate world. There’s no getting away from teaming up to problem solve,  to share skills, to share ideas, exchange creativity, and  produce results.

STEM Team Dynamics

As mentioned, both phone calls had a happy ending. I am not sure if the second phone call ended with a full conversion, but a link toward a better understanding was shared from both sides of the phone.

It’s a great time to be part of the team as an educator.

~Kay Borglum, MS (FL)



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