Teamwork in School—Why Do You Need To Teach Students To Collaborate?

Teamwork is a crucial skill to teach your students in high school as it impacts their success in future careers and their personal growth and happiness. Collaboration among students in the classroom is a challenge both for you and your students.

High school students usually keep a close circle of friends and are reluctant to engage in team-based activities with peers outside of that circle. At the same time, adolescents want to be accepted and regarded as ‘cool’ by all their peers, which is a factor that often leads to social anxiety in teens.

If you want your students to develop soft skills that will turn them into successful college students and desirable candidates in the job market, you need to teach them how to teamwork efficiently.

Here’s everything you should know about the importance of teamwork in a school setting and how you can implement teamwork activities in the classroom successfully.

Why Is Teamwork Important in Schools?

Credit: Clayton Cardinalli

The importance of teamwork in high school can’t be stressed enough. Except for a few social butterflies in your class, students shudder at the thought of collaborating with their peers on projects. It’s much easier for high school students to be their own bosses, have complete control over when and how much they work and have only themselves to blame if something goes wrong.

The truth students need to face is that even if they become small business owners in their careers after high school, they won’t work in isolation. 

You need to emphasize the importance of building collaboration to your students and implement team-based activities into your classroom because teamwork:

  1. Challenges your students
  2. Brings their strengths and weaknesses to light
  3. Improves interpersonal skills
  4. Builds leadership skills
  5. Boosts self-confidence
  6. Develops a growth mindset
  7. Prepares students for higher education
  8. Helps students thrive in their future careers
  9. Improves personal relationships for students

The Benefits of Teamwork in School—The Learning Curve

Since students are usually not comfortable with working in teams, assigning a team-based activity is a challenge by default. Having to face this challenge will make the majority of your students reluctant to do the activity. Once they engage themselves in the assignment, they notice that collaborating with peers isn’t as intimidating as they may have first thought.

It’s important for high school students to realize that they can’t always stay within their comfort zones in school, work, or life. Having gone through an activity that was uncomfortable for them at first shows them they can do just about anything once they set their minds to it.

Teamwork Helps Students Realize Their Potential

By challenging your students to work in a team, you also help them realize what their strengths and weaknesses are. Depending on the project, their role in the team, and the particular tasks they do, students will see what skills they possess and what skills they need to work on.

For example, after delegating tasks to their peers, and the peers completing those tasks within the set deadline, a student who has been appointed a team leader knows they have good leadership skills. That revelation can help the student realize they want to choose a career in which they can perform a leadership role.

Alternatively, if a student failed to communicate a piece of information to their peers, maybe speaking skills aren’t their strength. This can show the student what weaknesses they should work on to improve teamwork skills.

Teamwork Teaches Students Social Skills

Learning social skills is the most important effect teamwork activities can have on your students.

Social or interpersonal skills include:

  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Communicating information effectively
  • Managing conflict
  • Accepting differences
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Helping out
  • Accepting authority
  • Using one’s voice and agency

Developing all of these skills is critical for your student’s personal and professional growth. Working as a team teaches students the importance of sharing, listening, and standing up for themselves. Students learn that little can be accomplished if they keep to themselves and shy away from collaborative activities.

In the classroom, teamwork is also important because it connects students on a deeper level. It can form friendships where there haven’t been any. Alternatively, teamwork activities make students realize they can get along to achieve a specific goal even if they aren’t close friends or don’t share the same interests.

Teamwork in School Promotes Leadership Skills

A student doesn’t have to act as the manager of the team to use and perfect their leadership skills. Being in a team means that students work together to accomplish a shared objective, which is an environment every leader knows well.

The essential leadership skills students learn through teamwork are:

  • Taking responsibility for their actions and that of the team
  • Motivating themselves and others
  • Supporting others
  • Being self-aware
  • Communicating goals effectively
  • Being flexible
  • Reacting to obstacles efficiently 
  • Providing and receiving feedback
  • Influencing others
  • Solving problems

A student that performs as the team manager also learns how to delegate tasks, organize meetings, and oversee each member’s activities.

You should allow all your students to be team leaders on different team-based projects. Not all of them will thrive in that position, but they will certainly learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and what roles in the team they feel comfortable taking.

Teamwork Boosts Students’ Self-Confidence

Not only is confidence essential for teamwork, but collaborating with peers also increases your students’ feelings of self-worth.

Since all members must contribute to and be heard in team-based activities, students feel personal satisfaction when they achieve a shared goal. They know that their ideas mattered and that their individual effort helped the progress.

When your students go on to study at university, get their first internships, and enter the workforce, their confidence will be key for their success. If they have sufficient experience with teamwork in high school, students will know how to use their voice and agency to achieve what they desire in the future. They will also know how to listen actively, which will make them valued by others and proud of themselves, in turn.

Effective Teamwork at School Develops a Growth Mindset

When students do an assignment by themselves, they are the only ones who will bear the responsibility for their success or failure. Alternatively, when students do an assignment in a team, their work affects the entire project and all team members. This makes it easier for students to find the motivation to work harder.

When they are collaborating with their peers to achieve the goal together, students are more focused on the work itself than the outcome. Concentrating on the work rather than the result is essential for developing a growth mindset in students. Students who have a growth mindset know that they can improve their skills when they make sufficient effort. 

Being focused on the progress teaches your students that:

  • Effort alone is rewarding
  • Setbacks are crucial for learning 
  • Mutual feedback is essential
  • Growth is always possible through trying

Teamwork in a School Setting Prepares Students for College

If your students don’t learn how to work in a team in high school, they likely won’t be open to team-based activities in college. This can impact their academic achievements negatively since collaboration is expected and encouraged in higher education.

Working in research teams, co-writing articles, and teamwork teaching in courses are common in college. You have to start teaching students to collaborate in high school if you want them to thrive academically. Perhaps projects they have worked on earn a mention in their personal statements and will secure them scholarships for college while in high school

Teamwork in School Prepares Students for Their Careers

It’s no secret that effective teamwork stands behind the success of many businesses. Regardless of the career your students want to pursue and the positions they land in their future jobs, their employers and colleagues will expect them to be team players.

All the skills your students acquire by working in a team—like social and leadership skills—will help them get the job they want in the future and be successful in their careers.

Students who are used to team-based environments are:

  • Reliable
  • Respectful
  • Productive
  • Positive
  • Unafraid of challenges
  • Open to feedback
  • Capable of managing conflict

All these traits make for a candidate that is highly valued in any industry and able to advance in their career quickly.

Working in a Team Improves Personal Relationships

Teamwork skills are essential for professional growth, but they help your students lead more fulfilling personal lives too.

Interpersonal relationships are a huge part of everyone’s life. For adolescents in particular, how well they get along with the people around them has a significant impact on their mental well-being and personal happiness.

When your students work in a team consistently, they learn to:

  • Empathize with others
  • Reach compromises in conflicts
  • Communicate their own thoughts and feelings effectively

Students will use the teamwork skills they acquired in the classroom in their personal lives to make friends more easily and strengthen their existing relationships.

How To Encourage Teamwork in Your Classroom

Credit: Shubham Sharan

Incorporating teamwork in your classroom is about shaping a positive school culture that values everyone’s needs and desires.

When your students are comfortable with team-based activities, they understand that collaboration is crucial for the functioning of the school, as an institution, and the well-being of all members of its community.

As a teacher, you can take steps to ensure the teamwork in your classroom is effective by:

  1. Assigning roles efficiently—every team should consist of students with different strengths. Don’t group students into teams randomly. Make sure every member of a team is there for a reason. For example, students who have strong decision-making skills need to work with students who are better at conflict management and interpersonal relationships. That way, every member contributes a specific skill to the project
  2. Setting rules—your students should expect and prepare for conflict and setbacks. Set the rules in advance for how teams will deal with disagreements and task-specific errors. You should also propose to teams that they set the rules for how they will communicate while working on the same project
  3. Allowing students to speak up—if your students don’t like working in a specific team, they should let you know. Invite students to communicate to you privately about their dissatisfaction and resolve it together
  4. Encouraging students to meet outside the classroom—explain to your students that the success of their project depends on how well they get along personally. You should encourage them to hang out when they are not working on the assignment 
  5. Implementing progress reports—when the team-based activity is over, your students should tell you about their experience. You can assign one member of each group to inform you of everyone’s impressions. Your students should go over what they learned and what they would like to change in future activities

How Does Teamwork in School Resemble Teamwork in the Workplace?

Credit: You X Ventures

Teamwork in the classroom should model teamwork in the workplace. Since you are preparing your students for their future careers, you should teach them to collaborate with one another even if they would rather work alone.

If you want the team-based activities you assign to teach students the importance of collaboration, you can’t let them choose their team members. As tomorrow’s employees, your students will need to collaborate both with the colleagues they like and dislike. They have to get used to seeing past personal differences in the teamwork they do with their peers. 

In a business setting, teams are either managed by one person, or the autonomy is shared between all the members. These two types of themes are called manage-led and self-managing teams. 

Here’s how the two differ:

Manager-Led Teams Self-Managing Teams
  • One leader is appointed for the entire team
  • The leader assigns tasks to all members
  • The leader monitors the team’s progress
  • Both the activities and the outcome are the responsibility of the leader/manager
  • Can but don’t need to have a leader
  • When there is a leader, he/she determines the goals, but not the activities the members will do to achieve them
  • All team members have control over their individual tasks
  • Team members propose the strategies to the leader 

In the classroom, you should have both types of teams in team-based activities. That way, the teamwork activities that students do resemble a real-life work environment. Students will benefit from having experienced teamwork in both manager-led teams and self-managing teams since they will have to work in both environments in the future.

What Roles Do Team Members Play?

Even when the team is manager-led, the success of the assignment, on the whole, depends on how each member contributes to it.

Many students are okay with team-based activities if they find a way to do the least amount of work. It’s crucial to teach your students that each team member needs to contribute to the task.

The roles team members play can be put into two categories:

  • Task-based roles
  • Relationship-building roles

For a team to function to its full capacity, every student needs to perform a task-based and relationship-building role. If you are not sure what each of these roles encompasses, check out the table below:

Task-Based Roles Relationship-Building Roles
  • Distributing information
  • Sharing skills or knowledge
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Giving directions
  • Supervising activities
  • Reporting progress
  • Organizing team meetings
  • Explaining complicated concepts
  • Finding information
  • Solving problems
  • Supporting and motivating
  • Giving praise
  • Encouraging
  • Helping out
  • Empathizing
  • Contributing success to the entire team
  • Sharing responsibility

Do You Think Students Lack Teamwork Skills?

Teamwork is challenging for high school students. It requires them to step out of their comfort zones, put someone else’s needs before their own if need be, and make sure they are also heard and respected in the group. They would rather not deal with all of that and work in isolation.

It’s your task to promote teamwork in school in a way that your students come to cherish the opportunity. They need to realize that collaboration helps them overcome their weaknesses and grow the soft skills they need to succeed in life. To do that, you first need to identify why students shy away from teamwork. Only then can you begin to dispel their doubts about it and encourage them to be open to collaboration.

To help other teachers across the country do the same, write to us about how you deal with teamwork in your classroom. We want to know whether you think many students lack teamwork skills and what can be done to fill that gap in our education.

We’ll publish your text on our blog to share your insight and help promote teamwork in education.