Team Work: Key to Successful Graduate Studies

There will be many occasions where team work will be desired or essential in graduate study. Here are some ideas on how to make your team work successful, in terms of goals for establishing a team and the stages your team is likely to go through (forming, storming, norming, and performing).


A. Team-building goals

·        Get to know each other

·        Learn to work as a team

·        Work out decision-making issues

·        Determine support service availability (word processing, creating blogs, photocopying, layout, etc.)

·        Set meeting ground rules

·        Begin to build the team leadership

·        Begin to establish roles

B. Production/progress goals

·        Set an agenda

·        Review goals and purposes

·        Establish future action needs/plans

·        Plan for future meetings

C. Assessment/evaluation goals

·        Determine if there is any unfinished business or any unmet needs

·        Ensure clarity exists for all members

·        Seek mutual agreements by all members on future tasks

·        Determine if there are problems or difficulties


Stage 1: Forming

·        Forming can include these feelings:

o   Excitement, anticipation, and optimism

o   Pride in being a part of the team

o   Initial, tentative attachment to the team

o   Suspicion, fear, and anxiety about the tasks ahead

·        Forming can include these behaviors:

o   Attempts to define tasks

o   Attempts to define individual and group behaviors

o   Decisions on what information needs to be obtained

o   Lofty, abstract discussions of issues; or, for some members, impatience with such discussions

o   Discussion of problems/issues not relevant to the task

o   Difficulty in identifying relevant problems

o   Complaints about the organization and barriers to the task

Stage 2: Storming

·        Storming can include these feelings:

o   Resistance to the task and to quality improvement efforts

o   Sharp fluctuations in attitude about the team and the project's chance of success

·        Storming can include these behaviors:

o   Arguing among members even when they agree on the real issue

o   Defensiveness and competition; factions or cliques

o   Questioning the wisdom of those who found the project or the process of selecting team members

o   Establishing unrealistic goals; concern about excessive work

o   Disunity, increased tension, and jealousy

Stage 3: Norming

·        Norming can include these feelings:

o   A new ability to express criticism constructively

o   Acceptance of membership in the team

o   Relief that it seems everything is going to work out

·        Norming can include these behaviors:

o   An attempt to achieve harmony by avoiding conflict

o   Increasing friendliness, confidence in each other, and sharing of personal issues

o   Establishing and maintaining team ground rules and boundaries

Stage 4: Performing

·        Performing can include these feelings:

o   Increasing insights into personal and group processes

o   Better understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses

o   Satisfaction at the team's progress

·        Performing can include these behaviors:

o   Constructive self-change

o   Ability to prevent or work through group problems

o   Close attachment to the team


Adapted from Scholtes, P. R. (1988). The team handbook. Madison, WI: Joiner Associates.

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