The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
Ineffective communication skills are the fundamental problem of any failed teamwork. Besides others, teamwork and communication have been recognised as the most important skills that every learner should have. These skills are an integral part of a learner’s personal, emotional, societal, and professional growth.
We see a paradigm shift in the education system when teachers and students are being motivated to acquire digital skills. Due to the pandemic, the education sector’s dependency on digital infrastructure has increased. Though much needed, this came at the cost of neglecting other skills such as personal and interpersonal skills. Whether using the internet for study or interacting with people personally, we must remember we are communicating with real people. This is important to understand the kind of care we need to take to avoid misunderstandings in the virtual scenario. To learn in detail about online communication this course offers an interesting overview.
What can be a theory of change to transition to a more progressive teaching-learning ecosystem? There are multiple approaches based on the new-age learning sciences. A teacher can adopt methods such as project-based learning, group work and activities, storytelling, research-based assignments, etc. A shift towards a constructivist pedagogy where a teacher educator can use a variety of teaching strategies and methods, can play a quintessential role in revamping the art of teaching and learning.
Learning designs should include student-centered, learning pedagogies such as inquiry-based and problem-based scenarios where students will be a part of a learning environment that will help them connect their learning with real-life context. The benefit of introducing teamwork into classroom practices will promote deep learning and provide a space for collaboration, cooperation and interaction. According to educational psychologist Lev Vygotsky, these kinds of learning designs will promote the construction of knowledge where effective teamwork strategies can help them to achieve team goals by sharing knowledge and skills. Joe Kincheloe advanced the view that the motive of critical pedagogy is to help teachers in promoting knowledge construction by students.
Extant literature on teamwork and communication skills reinforces the idea that teamwork, communication, and cooperative learning benefit students to undertake deep learning, improve communication skills, and learn how to manage conflict situations. Communication plays an important role in teamwork. It is about how people share information between team members and how team members interpret the same. Communication skills include how effectively you are able to convey your message in both- oral and written form and how your active listening skills and critical reading can contribute towards achieving the project goals. To work efficiently in a group, students should be able to communicate effectively on an intellectual and emotional level. Below are characteristics of an effective communicator:
- Ability to express ideas clearly
- Active listener
- Ability to clarify others’ ideas and emotions
- Ability to sense how others are feeling based on non-verbal communication
In addition to this, interpersonal skills include teamwork and your ability to manage group dynamics and delegate tasks to group members. The common challenge, a teacher often encounters in facilitating teamwork is:
- Conflict among team members
- Students having negative apprehensions regarding delegation of tasks
- Students hold the perception that teachers have a biased attitude while grading
- Lack of effective communication skills
- Sometimes students end up with the feeling of a lack of coherence, integration, and zeal to achieve a common goal
The question that arises here is how we can overcome these problems and create a healthy learning environment where students will be the co-creators of knowledge? There can be various strategies that can be implemented such as:
- Encourage students to read and discuss their shared goals and implementation strategies for the project with the entire class.
- Benefits of interdependency where members should understand the idea of doing teamwork. Each individual in a group should encourage their fellow members to learn, contribute and achieve the desired goal. A teacher should discuss with her students what constitutes a good presentation. She can show them a live demonstration.
- Fostering a healthy work environment where they need to understand how to develop trust, feeling of support, and respect towards other members.
- By establishing a critical pedagogy where you can evaluate team processes and the outcome of the teamwork
- Develop an environment of open communication and positive feedback where students learn how to value others’ contributions and listen to the needs of group members. Give them space for self-reflection and team reflection by using survey form as this will help them to receive and provide constructive feedback.
- Designing team composition helps in streamlining the process. Let students decide the rules for teamwork. It should be the group’s responsibility to determine who will do what and what will happen to those who don’t adhere to team rules (for example- meeting timelines).
- To promote collaborative learning, let the team choose the online platform and tools to work collectively so that the active participation of each member of a group can be measured
- Allow them to set up a communication channel so that the minutes of the group meeting and progress report can be submitted to the teacher. It entails the organization of group projects, timelines, the delegation of tasks, and the accountability of members.
- Let students critically evaluate the presentation of each other. Give them space to evaluate their teams’ overall performance based on the rubrics designed by a teacher.
Students need to realize that they will be dealing with different personalities. It is all about how you are communicating with other people. It is true that working with others can be difficult sometimes but managing time, proper instruction, efficiency in resolving group conflicts, and effective communication skills can make you a better contender for any position. To read more on how to become an effective group member, click here. Teachers sometimes find it difficult to implement group work to build teamwork and communication skills. We share here a lesson plan on team building and communication for class 6. Click here to read.
 Oliver, R. (2001). Developing e-learning environments that support knowledge construction in higher education. Presented at the 2nd International We-B Conference, p. 407 – 416. Perth, Western Australia.
 Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.