Social skills and teamwork are primary

Some of my students hate groupwork. I’m sympathetic; I used to hate it too. Working in a group slows you down, these students say; it forces you to cooperate with less-capable classmates; it makes you assume responsibility for other people’s failings.

math groupThere is, of course, another side to the picture. Some students love working in groups because they recognize that they end up learning more (“two heads are better than one” and so forth); some students love it because they can help a classmate and they recognize that doing that firms up their own knowledge; and some love it because they recognize its value in other ways. Unfortunately there are a few who love it precisely because they can push responsibility off on somebody else. (That last group may think they’re pulling a fast one, but of course they’re actually learning less and will not do as well on assessments. Maybe they’ll learn that lesson. Maybe not.)

Let’s focus on the students who recognize the value of working in groups and figure out how we can get others to recognize that value. A recent article in the Harvard Gazette provides evidence:

In surveys, employers routinely say they value teamwork, collaboration, and communication as essential but hard-to-find traits in young job applicants. Now comes proof that they’re putting their money where their survey answers are. In a new working paper that traces connections between earnings and skills over time, HGSE economist David Deming has found that the labor market is increasingly rewarding social skills — even over the kind of cognitive skills that we often think of as being particularly valuable in an era of big data and expanding technology.

…employers cited “ability to work in a team” as the most desirable attribute of new college graduates, ahead of problem-solving and analytical/quantitative skills, when the National Association of Colleges and Employers asked them in its 2015 survey.

Those are just a couple of excerpts. Read the whole article, which isn’t much longer.



Categories: Teaching & Learning