Team Dynamics in and Adult Educational Environment Thesis

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Team Dynamics is an interesting and complex issue, precisely because it involves more than one person. Each human being is different in terms of psychological make-up and the abilities that they bring to team work. These abilities extend significantly beyond the basic leader and follower paradigms. In addition to primarily being leader or follower, team members also function with others in a certain way, which could lead to conflict. This is particularly so in an online learning environment, where team members are largely deprived of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication could also be misinterpreted and lead to needless conflict. However, the absence of facial expression and other such clues add the element of uncertainty to verbal meaning, and therefore conflict could ensue on this basis. The mainly verbal paradigm of online communication therefore lends and interesting dimension to team communication, functioning together as a team, and conflict resolution.

Effective Communication

According to Kenneth Crow (2002), three dynamics play an important role if communication among team members is going to be successful. These include a willingness to talk and share information, active listening, and understanding. In the online environment, each of these gain a particular type of importance, as they manifest in specific ways.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Thesis on Team Dynamics in and Adult Educational Environment Assignment

In terms of willingness to talk and share information, and important feature of online communication is the difference (or lack thereof) between the introverted and extroverted style. The fact that online communication does not occur in real time like conversations do, and also the fact that it occurs in a semi-anonymous way, often provides those with a normally introverted style with greater confidence to air their views. Even if these views have to be drawn out, this is often easier in an online environment than in a real-time conversation. In terms of team communication, then, the fact that verbal communication is the virtually the only way to make oneself visible, these elements work in favor of both the introverted and extroverted person. Extroverted people can share their views with the understanding that others would return the conversation in kind, without inhibitors such as physical features, eye contact, posture, or any other visible clues.

A second point in this regard is that a speaker needs to de-personalize issues that might lead to a defensive reaction from other team members. This is also easier in an online environment, as the tone of voice and facial expression often accompanying these issues are absent. Words are by nature impersonal, and the type of diction used in online communication can be modified and rewritten until the exact style desired is accomplished.

The second element Crow mentions is active listening. In an online environment, of course, listening translates to reading and writing. Active listening involves actively attempting to understand the viewpoint presented by asking opinions and questions. Once again, the tone of voice and other nonverbal issues are absent, which significantly simplifies this activity as well. This does not however mean that emotions cannot flare, and keeping one's temper while engaged in active listening, even in an online environment, remains important. Active listening also means presenting one's own arguments after listening to those of others, and concomitantly asking their opinions. This activity should occur in a spirit of mutual respect and learning. The team leader plays a vital role in accomplishing and maintaining such a spirit.

The final element, understanding, involves ensuring that the receiver had heard and received the message accurately. Neither speaker nor receivers should assume that the message was conveyed properly before checking that this is indeed so. The active listening exercise mentioned above can help with this. Of course in online communication this is also facilitated by the ability to revisit any sent messages and rereading them. Often a second reading provides a better understanding of the issue than the first did.

Effective Team Leadership

Claire Sookman (2007) focuses specifically upon team leadership when addressing the communication issue. When team communication breaks down - particularly communication from the leader to the team - Sookman suggests that the leader should take the responsibility to modify his or her communication and leadership style. At the bottom of effective leadership communication lies accepting the fact that human beings are inherently different from each other, and that no two people will have exactly the same perspective on things. Hence, the leader needs to recognize these differences and incorporate them in his or her leadership rather than resisting them. Sookman suggests several ways to do this.

The first responsibility of the team leader is not to make assumptions. The leader is not to assume that his or her own communication likes and dislikes are also those of the team members. Instead, observing the various styles of communication is necessary. This is done by communicating on an informal level, by first coming to know the team on a personal level before moving on to the business level. In an online learning environment, this can be accomplished by allowing each team member to create a profile page that other team members can visit, or by providing a platform for team members to communicate information about themselves during class discussions.

A second responsibility, which is very important, according to Sookman, is to confirm understanding. This means that people are to be asked how they work and why they work in such a way. The answers to these questions provides the team leader with an important understanding of what leadership styles and team positions would work best for each particular team member. Such an understanding can create a very beneficial working environment for each team member and also for the success of the team as a whole. Unfortunately, according to the author, this is not a question that many team leaders appear willing to ask.

Once understanding has achieved, it is also the responsibility of the team leader to provide his or her team members with what they need to succeed. This means that each team member is provided with the specific environment and tools with which he or she works best. Some may for example thrive on recognition and reward, while others prefer a challenging environment. By understanding what team members need in order to work best, and by taking responsibility for providing these, team leaders are able to create teams that work well both together and on an individual level.

Online Learning and Leadership

Julieta Matheson (2006) addresses the communication occurring in an online environment, where the team consists of online students, and the leader is the facilitator or teacher. It is the leader's responsibility to create a learning community for the students, where they can participate and benefit from the materials presented and their interaction with other team members.

Matheson notes that both asynchronous and synchronous communication and activities should be involved in such an effort. The former refers to communication and activities outside of real time. These include communication such as email and online bulletin boards, where some time elapses between the receipt of the message and its reply. Readers can take what time they need to respond to these types of communication. Activities that are asynchronous are also those where learners choose when to complete a task. Videos and textbooks, as well as writing papers, are included in such activities.

Synchronous communication takes place in real time, like a conversation. The most common communication activity of this kind is the chat session. All participants 'gather' at a certain online location at the same time, and type their questions and responses. Responses are typed immediately. Other types of communication in this mode may occur by means of audio or video feeds, conference calls, or closed-circuit television links. Synchronous activities could be question and answer sessions in a chat room, whiteboard drawings, or other interactions within the group.

The main advantage of an online learning platform is the fact that it provides great flexibility in terms of learning needs and styles. Each student is allowed to make choices regarding his or her preferences. Team leaders can also learn much more quickly and effectively which team members prefer which elements of the course, and provide what is needed for optimal success.

Conflict Resolution

Despite the above-mentioned factors of online communication that promote a better understanding and more active listening, it is also the nature of human interaction that conflict will occasionally arise. When this happens in an online environment, Moussou & White (2004) emphasize the importance of recognizing that online and offline communication incur key differences. The first of these is the lack of physical communication cues, as mentioned above. There are no non-verbal cues in online communication, and hence, in addition to the relative simplicity of communication, there is also no way to assess the audience's reaction to one's words.

The second key difference has also been mentioned above, in terms of personality and communication style. Some persons are introverted in their real-time social circle, but lose their inhibitions as soon as they communicate in an online environment. Social norms may be different or even open… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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