Welcome to Episode 11 of Our Student Voice.
To view and interact with the introductory video, click on Start Here in the video screen.
As a Class Representative you will need to work effectively with other people.
In some cases, you will be part of a team.
In other cases, you will be leading a team of people.
As a team member or as a team leader, you will need to be able to solve problems while working collaboratively.
As a class representative, or as a student in TU Dublin, it is important that you remember the following when you are working with others:
Understand how to solve problems: Problem solving can follow a process starting with understanding the problem, its causes, and its effects; and then generating, evaluating and implementing solutions.
Know how to collaborate effectively with others: Collaborating with others involves agreeing on objectives, setting and agreeing ground rules, establishing roles and responsibilities and monitoring progress.
Be able to build consensus: A consensus is a generally agreed position about which, ideally, no individual member of a group or team is in significant disagreement. Building consensus involves discussion and compromise and helps achieve collective responsibility.
The first step to solving any problem is to clearly define it. Then once you can get to a clear understanding of the problem you will be on the road to putting forward solutions to resolve it. Consider asking:
- Cause: What is causing the problem? Focus on behaviours rather than individual personalities.
- Effect: Who or what is it impacting? How is it impacting?
- Solution: Why a solution is important.
Try to write the problem as a simple one to two like statement outlining: what the problem is, when it is happening, why and who it is impacting. This will help you to present it to others in a coherent manner.
Students are not able to access background notes in x subject on Brightspace until three days after lectures. This limits our time and ability to study the material and prepare for assignments.
This is a simple technique for defining a problem is to ask ‘So what..? three to four times.
For example – start with a statement of the problem
Students are not getting timely feedback on our assignments
We don’t know how we did?
We don’t know where we need to improve?
This affects our capacity to learn the subject and perform better next time?
This in turn may lead some students to repeat mistakes and potentially fail a module thereby leading to the need to repeat ?
Note that some problems are straightforward and have a simple cause and effect while others are more complex and will require several iterations of defining the problem and its various impacts to get to the heart of the matter.
Once you have clearly defined the problem you are now on the road to putting forward potential solutions.
One of the most common and effective techniques for resolving a problem is to brainstorm ideas in an open, non-judgemental way.
With brainstorming it is really important that everyone in the group has an opportunity to contribute. One way to do this in a face to face setting is to distribute post it note and ask everyone to write down their ideas on how to solve the problem. These can then be grouped into themes.
Some students may be reluctant to put ideas forward so using a technique where you ask how a certain person approach would this, can be helpful – e.g. an artist, an engineer, a scientist or a named person – Barrack Obama, Michael O'Leary, Snoop Dog. This is called Figure Storming.
Once you have some options you can now begin to evaluate them in order to select the one you consider to be the best.
One simple way to evaluate ideas is to complete a pros and cons list. Simply write the idea at the top of a page and draw two columns underneath. In one column list all the positive aspects (advantages) of the solution and in the other the potential consequences (disadvantages).
You then need to decide on which idea to use. Very often decisions involve some level of compromise and being aware of what you can and won’t compromise on is important. Remember you can only make the best decision you can based on the information available to you and colleagues at that point in time.
Tip: It could be good to run your preferred course of action by somebody outside of the group to ensure you have not missed anything important.
Your final steps are to Plan, Implement and Evaluate.
Make a plan to implement your preferred solution to the problem. List the key things that will be done, by whom and by when and communicate them to the all involved. Once the solution has been implemented it is important to check if it resolved the problem it was designed to solve.
Collaboration happens when a team of people come together to work to solve a problem. When working with others, it is important that your meetings and interactions with each other are effective. To do so, you should follow the steps below.
Set Ground rules
Ground rules help keep meetings on orderly and on track. Some simple examples include
- Turn up on time - let the organiser know if you will be late
- One voice at a time – everyone gets a chance to speak
- Listen to others - Respect all views and opinions
- Differ with reasons – If you have a difference of opinion give the reasons why
- Focus on issues and behaviours and not the person
- If you say you’ll do something do it
Use an Agenda
- Circulate a request for agenda items in advance.
- Then circulate a note with: Date; time; duration of the meeting.
- Have a simple of list of the items that will be discussed.
Have a Meeting Process
- Agree who will take minutes or make a record of the actions agreed at the meeting.
- Review minutes of any previous meeting focusing on action items updates.
- Discuss agenda items and agree action items. Detail who will do what by when.
- Agree date for follow up and/or next meeting.
- Circulate minutes within 48 hours of the meeting.
Consensus is achieved when the overwhelming majority of the group or team can live with a specific decision and/or course of action after every effort has been made to meet everyone’s needs.
Ideally, everyone is agreed but this cannot always be achieved.
To optimise the chance of consensus the following principles are important:
- Engage the views of all involved parties in the problem definition and brainstorming process
- Listen to dissenting views and the reasons behind them
When a conflict arises, as the Class Representative your job is to support its resolution. These steps should help:
- Listen to understand by showing genuine interest in the other person's perspective. This is done though open questions: what?, when?, how?, where? Use good non-verbal language to acknowledge what the other person is saying. Seek clarification and summarise what you have heard so there is clarity on all sides.
- Define the real problem in partnership with the other person or group.
- Seek their ideal solution and find out where there is room for compromise or flexibility
- Show appreciation and outline what you can and cannot do as part of your role as Class Representative.
- Agree a course of action.
- Continue open communication.
If there are two opposing alternatives consider the following, while ensuring the ground rules are observed:
- Ask two groups to present their reasoning and merits of their solution back to whole group
- Each group can critique the other's proposal
- Both groups listen to the presentation and remodel their proposed solution if necessary
This approach may help each group reflect on their own proposal and identify ways to augment it. It may lead to common ground being established between the various views, and consensus being arrived at.
If no agreement can be arrived at it may be worthwhile:
- Seeking the assistance of a third party to bring a detached and objective view
- Speaking to the Students' Union or a Student Services professional who may be able to support or mediate in the process
These learning activities are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills required for this episode. These learning activities are also a requirement for the Active Class Representative, Curriculum Co-Designer, and Quality Assurance Expert Digital Badges.
Learning Activity 11.1: Ground Rules
Create a set of ground rules for a team that you will (or may) be leading.
If you are not planning on leading any team, imagine that you have been asked to put together a team to organise the Students' Union Christmas party.
Ask a fellow student for their feedback on these rules.
If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include the rules and the feedback (or a link to these) in your E-Portfolio.
Learning Activity 11.2: Role Model
Identify someone whom you think is an excellent team player and/or team leader. This could be a sports player, a member of a band, or someone you know in your own life.
Create a brief essay (1 page) / video (~1 minute) to explain why you think they are an excellent team player and/or team leader, and identify three of their behaviours that you could try to implement yourself.
If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.