viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

Building the path to develop 21st century Group work skills

I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.

I work as a teacher in a public high school in Colombia. The  understanding of collaborative problem solving for the members of this institution  is linked with with group or team work … and that is not good at all. Most of my workmates and colleagues dislike group problem solving and regard it as a waste of time and  the quote “ a camel is a horse designed by a committee”  fairly describes  their opinion and  attitude toward  collaborative problem solving or group decision making,  as it is regarded. 
            In this context, group work is assumed basically as division of labor among and within groups: the director assigns the tasks to groups according to people responsibilities and work duties which are clearly defined.   Generally, each group has a leader or coordinator in charge, if not they choose a charismatic member to leadership the group´s resources and efforts. His /her basic role is to determine   individual responsibilities:  decide who will do what and make sure all members know their tasks. Group members cooperate with the leader in determining necessary resources (identify the equipment, material and other resources the group will need in order to get the job done), contributing with ideas and solutions to problems in the implementation of the plan designed to accomplish the task.
Good leaders are thought to have skills related to maintaining personal relationships between the members.  Good leaders also take the best from each member by assigning responsibilities according to each one´s profile and interests. They choose the best approach to help members perform their tasks and are assertive and exercise the initiative. They are somewhat seen as more intelligent, talented, possessing more task relevant information than any other group members. Since most of the task require the use information technology, members who are skilled in processing and delivering information through computers are most likely to be chosen as leaders. 
        The leader assumes the responsibility for the group´s result. Just as he can assign responsibilities to each group member, the leader himself is responsible to the authorities for the group´s results. Each member in turn is responsible only of one specific part of the general plan.
             The approach to collaborative problem solving depicted in the previous description is not only due to my colleague’s ingrained habits, or lack of skills but also from rank hierarchies, authority and rules proper of highly burocratized systems. Some teachers lack the skills to send an e-mail, surf the web, search and download a document.    
We aren´t yet developed the social and cognitive  skills needed to work in groups as expected in the information society in spite of  pressures and job´s new demands. Education authorities and policy maker so far have   focused   their effort on the development of teacher´s basic technology skills  but little or nothing has been done to facilitate the development of 21st Century collaborative Skills
I have summarized my perception of the nature of collaborative problem solving by drawing a parallel between some of the actual characteristics of  collaborative problem solving process as we understand and do it and some of the characteristic of  sequential process for collaborative solving problems as idealized by PISA.
PISA – Sequential process
My own context
Problems are often ill-defined and/or ambiguous
The problem is clearly defined by an authority
Each group member identifies which elements of the problem they can each control and monitor 
Leader decides which elements of the problem can each member  control and monitor
Members share all available information
Members don´t think it necessary
Share it only  with the leader
Members know who knows what
Members don´t think it necessary
Only   the leader or few members know
All the members are responsible for the group´s results.
The leader is responsible for the group´s results.
Group member work in parallel. Orchestrate their efforts
Group members may work individually.
Distinguishable sub-skills deployed in accordance with situational needs.
Rely on uniform skills. Specialization.  

                I´m strongly convinced that developing of ICT skills is the first step to understand collaborative solving problem in the information society. Hopefully, the way we  think  and do group work will  gradually change  as more and more ICT  will be incorporated in  our administrative activities  and  teaching . 


A propósito de la re significación del manual de convivencia escolar que se lleva a cabo en la IE donde laboro el presente artículo presenta una breve reseña de las ideas que fundamentan la teoría de Carol Guilligan sobre el desarrollo moral. Guilligan propuso una teoría del desarrollo moral  basada en una ética del cuidado en lugar de en la ética de la justicia, la cual a su vez  se basa en el desarrollo de un sentido de justicia, equidad, igualdad, respeto y estricto seguimiento de las normas y las leyes. Su propuesta no es una invitación a la  no  acción o a no hacer cumplir las normas  sino a  una acción no-violenta, que no destruya, que atienda al contexto y no a los principios y que preste ante todo atención al cuidado. Sus ideas forman parte del  sustento teórico del actual proceso  de significación del manual de convivencia actualmente en curso en la institución.