Managing Conflict in Learning Teams
Shelia Porter, J.D.
Conflict: friend or foe? It can be either of the preceding, but most people usually categorize it as the latter. Conflict in itself is not the problem. It is, rather, our reactions to it that determine the impact, and thus cause us to characterize it as a negative experience. Conflict or divergence can be destructive or it can be constructive. It is up to the people involved in the conflict to manage the outcome. Conflict is inevitable and at times stimulates beneficial or creative thinking. Often times conflict is a signal that people are making different assumptions about what has thus far gone unspoken. When that happens, conflict gives them an opportunity to articulate their assumptions and then to figure out a way to come to agreement. In a Learning Team situation, conflict can arise when the original agreement to work together does not address enough specifics about exactly how and when team members will accomplish individual tasks. This will inhibit achieving overall team goals. Understanding that conflict can, will, and perhaps should occur puts a greater emphasis on the Learning Team Charter. It is much more than a formality or a document to be completed quickly, signed, and filed away. It serves as a roadmap the team can use to arrive at its destination. When the Learning Team Charter section on conflict management is completed in a conscientious manner, it will provide the team with an agreement about how conflicts will be resolved for the good of the team and possibly reduce the negativity associated with conflict. Managing Conflict in Learning Teams 1
The Learning Team Charter requires the team to focus on the potential conflicts that may arise between or among team members in each course. Team dynamics and conflict can differ from course to course. Creating a new Charter for each course is essential. What conflicts can the team anticipate? How will the team deal...