Groups vs. Teams

“With a group, the whole is often equal to or less than the sum of its parts; with a team, the whole is always greater.”*

It is important to make a distinction between group work vs. team work, because there is a difference. When students work in groups, often times each student goes into isolation to work on a specific part of an assignment, with no input from other team members. Towards the end of the assignment, the group members might quickly combine each member’s section of a document, for example, then upload the assignment for a grade. In this instance, very little collaboration takes place and students can’t take advantage of the learning that often occurs in teams.

In a team project, students interact with one another on various aspects of the assignment, collaboratively coming to a consensus and working together towards a common goal.  Each team member is aware of what the other team member is working on, and the final deliverable for the assignment is very cohesive because of this. One thing to keep in mind is that students might not have the necessary skills to function at a high level within a team environment when they first set foot in your class. You might need to provide some structure and guidance for each team. In the ‘Stages of the Teaming Process’ section, we’ll specifically talk about some of these skills and how you can include them in various parts of an overall team assignment.

* Oakley, B., Felder, R., Brent, R. and Elhhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student-Centered Learning. Volume 2, No. 1. Pg. 9-34.