As a seventh grade PE teacher I am trying to use team building with my diverse group of students. Gill and Williams (2008) offer two main definitions for “team building” that are commonly used today. The first definition states “team building is a method of helping the group to increase effectiveness, satisfy the needs of its members, or improve work conditions” and the second states “Team building can be characterized as ‘team enhancement’ for both task and social purposes” (Gill and Williams, p. 261). Both definitions imply that team building exercises are vital to maximize the amount of productivity within the group (possibly by reducing social loafing) and to build relationships among the members of the group. In relation to my seventh grade PE students, team building could be an incredibly effective way to both get the children to be actively engaged in exercise, and also to strengthen relationships between the peers.
The main objective of team building exercises is to enhance group cohesiveness in order to increase group effectiveness. Senecal, Loughead & Bloom (2008) performed a study with 86 female high school basketball players and showed that teams that participated in team building interventions had higher levels of team cohesiveness than did the control teams. If high group cohesiveness actually leads to increased group effectiveness, then group cohesiveness is clearly what I would need to focus on as a PE teacher. The first part of the program would be for me, the educator, to identify a problem or set a goal for the class as a whole. I feel that one important problem that faces many PE classes in our country today is the lack of engagement and lack of activity that actually goes on during a PE class. Students tend to spend much of the class standing around, not being engaged in the activity. I would make it clear to my students at the beginning of the intervention that the ultimate goal is to increase overall activity (while still having just as much fun).
I would first start by splitting up the classroom into several groups. Each group would have the same task, and each group would be working towards an overall classroom goal. This way groups could be competing against each other but still be unified by the same common goal. It is important for the groups to not be too big for several reasons. Gill and Williams (2008) discuss social loafing and mention that when people work in smaller groups social loafing tends to decrease. If the children are in smaller groups they will feel as if they are being individually evaluated and put forth more effort. The children should also feel more comfortable performing a task (sit up or push up) in a small group as opposed to in a large group. Not only will the children feel like they are being more closely evaluated, small groups will indeed make it easier for me to evaluate the individuals and teams better.
Splitting up the teams evenly in terms of diversity (race, ability, gender, etc) will be important to keep things even. Each team should have a designated leader as well as other defined roles within the group. The roles will be clear to each group member and they will be held accountable for what the contribute to the group. I will encourage the students to help others in the group in order to best benefit the group as a whole. There is a lot that peers can teach each other, especially if the group is diverse. Assisting and teaching other members of the group will not only increase performance, but it will strengthen relationships within the team. Each team can have different colored shirts in order to distinguish one group from another. Explain the importance of exercise to the class as a whole to hopefully increase intrinsic motivation, but also some form of reward for the groups that do the best could also be beneficial (cut in line at lunch pass, “jean day” if school has dress code, etc.). If he students enjoy these team building exercises, it may be very beneficial to repeat them throughout the year. Each time assign the students to different groups so they have the chance to meet and work with new people.
According to Gill and Williams (2008) research has shown that team building interventions increase group effectiveness by enhancing group cohesiveness. My 7th grade PE class is to take part in a team building exercise that is aimed to do just that; enhance group cohesiveness to increase the amount of activity and engagement during a PE class. The groups will be split up by me and each group will have similar levels of ability and diversity. Each group will have defined roles, be encouraged to assist other group members when possible, and the small groups will allow me to effectively evaluate group and individual performance.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Senecal, J., Loughead, T., & Bloom, G. (2008). A season-long team-building intervention: Examining the effect of team goal setting on cohesion. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 30(2), 186-199.