The Formation Process of a Learning Team

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Abstract

Contemporary workplaces and learning institutions are characterized by individuals that are diverse in terms of gender, age, interests, and experiences among others. Thus, effective management of these diversities is paramount in these organizations to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency. Surprisingly, many studies conducted on the effect of diversity on a team have not yet established whether diversity impacts a team positively or negatively. Some studies reveal that homogenous teams are known to outshine heterogeneous ones, while other studies show vice versa. Therefore, an optimum conclusion concerning the issue is still missing (Bar, 2007). This discussion investigates the formation process of a learning team that comprises three members. In addition, the discussion examines how the team’s diversity in terms of age, occupation, skills, and personal traits is likely to affect team performance.

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The Various Linear Stages in Team Formation

When the three team members were starting the team, they were successful to make it through the first four linear stages in team formation, which included Storming, Forming, Norming, and Performing. During the team formation stage, the team members took that opportunity to familiarize themselves with each other and the task assigned. Initially, when the team was being formed, the team lacked clear objectives and the team recorded a low level of participation. This indicated that some members did not have clear objectives for the team formed. The objective of the team was to boost the learning process of the team members, but some members were motivated to be members of the team so that they could get the leadership position. That is why some members left the team because they were not allowed the role of leading the team. Also, the team was noted to face poor involvement at first because the members that remained on the team were not very comfortable with the law enforcement officer being their leader. After working together for a while and realizing that we shared a lot in common in terms of our interests in sports, we ended up teaming up and becoming great friends. Also, in the early formation of the team, we went through the storming stage. At this stage, there were some struggles for leadership and some other members left the team because they were not designated the leader of the team. The norming stage results materialized after the remaining three members of the team worked together and identified the strengths and shortcomings of each team member. The team has been successful in establishing the strengths and weaknesses of its members, which have been very important for me as the leader when assigning duties among the three of us. The performing stage is realized in a team when all the team members are successful in understanding and appreciating each other. It is characterized by strong relationships and success. The three team members are currently very good friends and occasionally watch sports on television together. Two of the team members used to play basketball in high school and college, although they no longer play. The team members usually talk about the Lakers basketball team, which strengthens their ties further. The last stage in team formation is the team adjourning stage which occurs when the team project comes to an end (Robbins & Judge, 2009).

Three Main Theories of Team Diversity

There are three theories that exclusively explain how diversity affects team performance. They include the theory of similarity/attraction, social categorization/ information, and decision making. These theories agree with the team effectiveness model.

Diversity in age, interest, gender and attitudes are linked with the theories of social categorization and similarity/attraction. These theories put forward as fact that diversity within the team tends to decrease team communication, which in turn affects its performance negatively. Nevertheless, the theory of information and decision-making argues that the diversity of team members indicates a representation of different networks that have an effect of increasing the information available to the team. The availability of an abundant amount of information within a team is likely to enhance the performance of the team because the team members have many alternatives to analyze and select the most appropriate solution. Generally, the effect of diversity on a team is mostly determined by the strengths of the variables discussed by these theories. Informational diversity as put forward by the theory of information and networks is defined as a discrepancy in education bases, skills and viewpoint of the team members. These disparities arise when the team members are heterogeneous in terms of experiences and education level attainment and specializations. If the informational diversity is high, it means that the information available to the group is much more and this offers the group an opportunity to have numerous options that greatly maximizes its performance.

How Occupation Diversity of the Team Will Affect Performance

A team of three learners, which include a detective from the Los Angeles Police department, a teacher’s assistant in Los Unified School District, but currently unemployed and the third one an ex-basketball player at a junior college, who is currently trying to become a police officer with the Whittier Police Department, represents a good example of a team that possesses high information diversity. The diversity in the information occurs because all three team members possess various occupations. A former teacher, a law enforcement officer, and an ex- junior college basketball player, possess different experiences and knowledge due to their divergences in occupation, training, and experience. Therefore, such a learning team is most likely to perform successfully since its occupation diversity increases the information available to the team. The team members will have at their disposal diverse alternative information to brainstorm and identify the most appropriate ideas to apply to their learning process. The law enforcement officer (learner) is well trained and thus, he is very knowledgeable on information that pertains to criminology and is particularly the law. He also possesses some psychological knowledge, which enables him to differentiate criminals from the rest of the general population, by studying their behaviors (Kania, 2008). The former teacher, on the other hand, has been equipped with teaching skills to assist him to make an impact and relevant knowledge on young people, so that he can help them become skillful and very responsible people in future. The ex-basketball player has determination, team orientation along with disciplinary skills. In addition, he also has some psychological knowledge that helps him understand; predict the moves and behavior of his fellow team members; which enables him to be a better team player. This team is thus very equipped as a learning team due to the range of information that it possesses from its three members. The law enforcement officer will assist the group with relevant information that pertains to anything to do with behavior study, law and order. The former teacher on the other hand will contribute information about how to motivate people, presentation skills, and researching, and the former basketball player will contribute information on the importance of effective communication for better performance. The team is also likely to perform very well since the three learners share a lot in common. Their similarity will boost their cooperation and communication greatly which in turn will boost the team performance greatly. A teacher, a law enforcement officer and a basketball player, due to the nature of their occupations, are all trained to work as a team and thus they are equipped with relevant skills on how to maximize team performance. In addition, their occupation requires them to be much disciplined. The discipline that is associated with the three learners will be manifested in their team assignment. Failure of team members to ensure discipline within the team can greatly compromise its performance since an undisciplined team is mostly uncooperative which greatly affects communication within the team. This in turn affects its performance negatively. On the other hand, the similarities of some of the knowledge of the three learners may affect the performance of the team negatively. The performance may be affected due to overlapping tasks. For instance, all three learners contain some psychological knowledge about behaviors. Their interpretations of the same may trigger a conflict due to their diverse occupations and past experiences. According to the law enforcement officer, violation of the law should be accompanied by punishment, while according to the teacher, and basketball player, the violation may be interpreted that the learner is not well motivated or trained and requires appropriate reinforcement for him/her to show the desired response. According to the latter two, punishment is rarely used and when it is used, it is usually as the last option, unlike to the police department where it comes first (Peak, 2010).

How Diversity Due to Age Will Affect the Team

Social category diversity results due to differences in social team membership. For instance, team members differ in terms of age or gender. A team that comprises three team members aged 24, 30 and 40 years is a good example of such diversity. The consequence of a team with such members that differ that much in terms of age may decrease their communication considerably. In addition, the differences can also affect negatively its cohesiveness and level of satisfaction. This can result because the most aged team member such as the one who is 40 years may tend to dominate the team contributions since he/she considers himself/herself more experienced than the others. Therefore, the failure of such a team to control their disagreements will affect the team negatively since it will adversely reduce its performance. It is noted that older team members are more knowledgeable than their counterparts due to their past experiences which may affect team participation, motivation and innovation. The young team members such as those aged 30 and 24 years of age may feel less motivated to give their contributions since the older member who is 40 years may overlook them. This will limit their participation greatly due to the domineering nature of the most experienced team member who is 40 years. Lack of adequate participation by all the three members will mean that the opinions that will be put forward by that member who is 40 years old will automatically be embraced. Failure of the other two members to freely participate will limit the team’s ability to look at the issues from a different perspective which can hinder the team from innovating new solutions to their problems. On the other hand, the age diversity in a team can also enhance the performance of a team depending on the strengths of the variables it impacts among the team members. For instance, the presences of the 24, 30 and 40-year-old members illustrate a team that is formed by members that belong to different age groups. The different age groups represent diverse experiences. Thus, when the 40-year-old member shares his great experiences with the lesser experienced members who are 30 and 24 years, this sharing can affect the team positively (Robbins & Judge, 2009).

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How Diversity in Skills Affects a Team Performance

Diversity of skills in a team will affect the team positively. This is because the presence of a variety of skills and abilities in a team means that the team is in a better position to tackle various situations, although overlapping of skills may cause conflict in a team. It is generally accepted that a team that exhibits a diversity of skills affects the group positively since every member uses his/her special talents in such of way that when all their skills are combined, it enables the team to get the greatest possible solution. In addition, diversification of skills in a team indicates different expertise, whereby this is known to affect the team positively as each member gets an opportunity to do what he/she is best at. At the same time, skill diversity has been noted to affect a team negatively in that members opt to do what they are good at. This option limits the team members an opportunity to learn other skills they may not be conversant with. Thus, the members will only opt for what their knowledge conformability level is, but will not embrace those opportunities to diversify their skills by learning from other team members. To ensure that the group does not face this problem, the leader who happens to be the police detective will ensure that he/she does not always assign roles based on talents, but also gives the members challenging tasks that will develop their other talents that require polishing. This will give the three team members an opportunity to learn from each other (Kilduff, & Mehra, 2000).

How Diversity in Personality Traits Affects a Team Performance

Diversity in personality traits can also affect a team performance positively or negatively. Some personality traits like those exhibited by personality type ‘A’ may be very instrumental in team performance. This is because personality types ‘A’ is associated with being very hardworking and when they bring their hard work into a team environment, it will greatly affect the team’s performance positively through increased productivity and performance. All the three team members are very hard working. Two of them played basketball at high school and college, while the other one is a teacher. Sportspeople and teachers are well known to be very hard working (Jehn and Neale1999).

Reference List

Bar, M. (2007). The Impacts of Work Group Diversity on Performance. Web.

Kania, R. E. (2008). Managing criminal justice organizations: An introduction. Newark, NJ: Lexis Nexis Matthew Bender.

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Kilduff, M. and. Mehra, A. (2000).Top Management-Team Diversity and Firm Performa: Examining the Role of Cognitions,” Organizational Science, 11, 21-34.

Jehn, K. and Neale, M. (1999). Why Differences Make a Difference: A Field Study of Diversity, Conflict and Performance in Workgroups,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 741-763.

Robbins, S.P. & Judge, T.A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Peak, K. (2010). Justice administration: police, courts, and corrections management (6th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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