Deirdre Moore | December 2015

Go TEAM! How to Have Productive Groups

Productive Group Works.

We have our students do it all the time.  As educators, our group works often takes the form of committees.  Even as adults we must be reminded of what helps to make group works.  I have been a member of teams that work really well and are extremely productive, groups that work well enough to get the job done, and groups where the combination of personalities makes it difficult to move forward in a positive and productive way.

So what are the ingredients that make a group or team work?  I’ll use the acronym TEAM to describe some elements I have found crucial to having a group works or a team work successfully:


There has to be plenty of time for the group to dig into the work.  The time you have set aside should be sacred and realistic.  Of course, that time should be well respected, and well spent.  If people are punctual and come prepared to work, the time can be used productively.


One thing I find difficult is when people are not clear about their expectations.  Communicating clearly what your expectations are help your fellow group members support you in achieving the team goals.  Take NOTHING for granted, and assume nothing.  As educators most of us have learned this from our students.  It works with adults too!


Whether you call them group works norms, guidelines, or agreements, the meaning is the same.  People need to agree on the rules of the game before they play.  Take time to set these up at the beginning of your work together.  You want to ensure all members feel safe and supported.  You want all members to feel their voice and needs are valued and respected.  You want to create an environment conducive to productive work.

If the members can share what they need in order to feel safe, and work productively, and have the other members agree to respect and honor those needs, the group or team is off to a great start.  It can keep lots of potential problems from developing.  If the agreements are kept for reference throughout the team’s work, they can help mitigate conflicts before they impact the group’s work.

Measurable objectives

Just like in any good lesson plan, you need clear objectives, and a way to measure those.  Groups or teams want to feel successful.  They want to know their impact.  If you start your work by clearly articulating what it is you want to achieve as a team you are more likely to be invested in the process. Thus, becoming more successful in your endeavors.


About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.