via Freakonomics: Qualities of Effective Teams

As an avid lover of podcasts, one of my favorites is Freakonomics Radio. In Episode 243, How to Be More Productive, there is a segment around the 23-minute mark that focuses on research Google did on its employees about what makes effective teams. As a teacher who utilizes Complex Instruction, I found that segment in particular to be especially applicable to students in group settings. Here are the things I from the podcast I will apply to my classroom (my thoughts in italics):

  • Even though we want to prioritize efficiency and working on tasks, letting teams have time to get to know each other functions as a glue that holds the team together.
    • I find this to be true of the class as a whole, which is why it’s essential for me to have off-topic non-math conversations during class time (although I try to have these conversations before class starts when possible).
  • The most important aspect of the team is not who’s on it or who leads it, but psychological safety–“which means that everyone at the table feels like they have the opportunity to speak up and that the other team members are actually listening to them and that their team members are sensitive to non-verbal cues”.
    • Because of the latter, I think it’s helpful to have a norm for asking quieter members how they feel and what they think.
  • It’s important that team members feel like they can fail and that the group will still support them.
  • There’s a difference between productivity and efficiency. Off-topic conversations are not necessarily efficient, but they can help the group be more productive.



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