I am now half way on my journey as a student in the online course ONL 172, and as companions on this journey I have had my peers in PBL-group 9. The current topic we are facing on now is Learning in communities – networked & collaborative learning, and after our last meeting I took some time to reflect upon our teamwork so far.
I thought I’d share some of these reflections using EiT-facilitation as a starting point.
On a daily basis I work with a course called Experts in Teamwork (EiT) at NTNU, in which the students develop interdisciplinary teamwork skills by reflecting on situations from their own teamwork. Reflection is a unfamiliar activity for many students, and in EiT we do several things to help the students in their reflection processes. One of the most important things we do is that we facilitate the student teams, but our facilitator-role is different compared to the facilitator-role in ONL 172 course (at least as I have experienced it so far).
In EiT the facilitators observe the groups when they work, and sometimes they share their observations with the groups and ask an open question to inspire further reflections.
Facilitation on our group work (so far)
If an EiT-facilitator had observed the group work in PBL-group 9 so far, I can imagine that he/she would have asked us questions such as:
- How would you describe the group work so far?
- I observe that some of you talk more than others during the meetings, what do you think about that?
- How do you reach decisions in your group?
The facilitator’s task is not to point out negative sides with our group work (e. g. he/she does not think we have a bad decision-making process), but he/she draws our attention to various sides of our teamwork and encourages us to talk openly about these.
My thoughts on the above questions:
– How would you describe the group work so far?
I think the climate in our PBL group 9 is highly supportive and encouraging. During our meetings I genuinely feel that all viewpoints and ideas are welcome, and we build on each other’s points. No contribution to the discussions is met with critique, but on the contrary the different contributions are met with openness and interest. Such group climate cannot be taken for granted; many groups have a climate of more negativity and closed-mindedness amongst the group members. I believe our group climate is a great starting point for learning.
– I observe that some of you talk more than others during the meetings, what do you think about that?
This I can agree on. For my part I would like to participate more than I do today. So, why don’t I participate, especially considering that we have such a supportive group climate? I think there are several reasons why I do not participate as much as I want to:
- I do not have any experience with online learning (in August I had never heard about a MOOC or creative commons, and had never participated in a webinar), so I do not feel I have as much to contribute with (compared to my peers).
- I only speak Norwegian at work, so to me speaking English is a barrier.
- On top of this I am a person who thinks before I talk, so when it takes me longer than usual to process the content of our conversation (due to the lack of experience and digital knowledge) and afterwords I need to spend time to figure out how to formulate an opinion in English, then my participation is lower than desired. This may be reinforced because the communication in Adobe Connect heavily relies on oral presentation skills, as body language is not so visible and I do not have the opportunity to visualize my thoughts on a piece of paper (to complement what I am saying).
– How do you reach decisions in your group?
I have actually not thought about this. The group has made many decisions so far, but I haven’t really thought about what the decision-making process is like. Maybe I would notice this more carefully in our next meeting?
The idea in the EiT-course is that by talking openly about our teamwork, we will get an increased awareness on how we work together, which gives us the opportunity to implement actions to improve our teamwork (if we would like to do something differently in the work to come).
One of my main motivations for taking the ONL 172 course is curiosity to see if, and how, facilitation as we practice it in EiT, could be implemented in online teamwork as well. I would really appreciate it if you could share your thoughts in this? Does any of you have experience with something similar? Can other aspects of teamwork be observed in groups that are working online, compared to groups working face-to-face?