1. Teachers spend most of their working day physically isolated from colleagues. And the concept of a team once they set foot in the classroom is relatively in valid. Convery (1992) distinguishes between his willingness to dissect curriculum prescriptions with colleagues in the staffroom and his reluctance to talk openly through personal anxieties about his own teaching with the very same people. 2. Teachers value authority and the ability to exert control.
This is seen most clearly both in the respect of formal status (that of the head-teacher) and in the expectation that individual teachers must develop the ability to ‘control’ their students. They have got accustomed to and many enjoy the autonomy of their own classroom. On an Institutional level, staffing structures, demarcations of responsibility and salary scales all remain hierarchical where authority is accepted and contradict the whole idea of a team structure.
Clement and Staessens (1993, p. 147) argue that both collegiality and autonomy are necessary in running an effective school. Managing the various forms of collegiality and autonomy is crucial in terms of stimulating or stunting the growth of opportunities for professional development. In our society individual responsibility is hammered home, from teachers, parents, religious leaders, not group responsibility. Individuals get rewarded or punished depending on their deeds, not groups.
Whenever things go wrong, or even right we ask who was responsible usually pointing to individuals, we are not satisfied with a successful football team; we want to know who the best player was, who the man of the match was, and various other individual statistics. Finally an interesting description offered by Butt et al. (1992, p. 65) of a teachers experience remind us of the importance of all members being involved at all times: I became a ‘closet teacher’, in that I would listen to suggestions, not offering any suggestions, and then ‘do my own thing’.
I found great success with this mode of operating and up to a few years ago, I hesitated to share any of my strategies/workshops/worksheets/lessons I developed on my own. Becoming an administrator forced me into sharing, for I wanted to provide teachers with access to as many resources as possible – the better the programmes they had, the better it was for the school. INVESTIGATION. The research tool elected for use was by a questionnaire (Refer to Appendix C for the actual questionnaire used).
It became apparent whilst discussing with colleagues their attitudes towards teams in TSI, without an anonymous individualised form of data collection, many views would be ignored, ‘kept secret’ and/or could easily be influenced by the dynamics of any group discussion. It was also important to empower the respondent to freely give his views, or as Johnson (1997, p. 37) says about questionnaires they are ‘in the hands of the respondent and is completed by him or her’.
The questions (actually statements) themselves were designed from the Literature review and through discussions with colleagues on team management issues in TSI. Piloting the questionnaire proved beneficial, weaknesses in the survey were noticed when clarity was requested to understand the statements. These statements were subsequently improved. Rather than a simple yes/no response type questionnaire it was more accurate to rate responses, indicating to some degree the strength of agreement with a statement.
Many of the statements and resulting responses dealt with people’s opinions and attitudes, which rarely produce such polarised responses as yes or no. There were six possible responses: strongly agree, moderately agree, neutral, moderately disagree, strongly disagree and unable to rate. Due to the impersonal nature of the questionnaire and the implicit difficulty in sensing whether responses were completely true feelings of the respondent, it became important to follow up the questionnaire with interviews, ensuring that the full benefit had been achieved from the questionnaire.
Bell (1987, p. 70), suggests that a skilled interviewer can ‘follow up ideas, probe responses and investigate motives and feelings, which the questionnaire cannot do’. Those personal elements such as tone of voice, body language and facial expression can give an indication of thoughts that can be followed up by further questioning for clarity (Johnson 1994, p. 45). Interviews were semi-structured based around the questionnaire allowing the individual to speak freely about his views and giving the interviewer a chance to use probing questions to achieve a clearer understanding by more complex responses from the interviewee.
As a rapport already existed between interviewer and interviewee the need for a fully structured interview seemed inefficient, when so much more information could be extracted. On the other hand the freedom of an unstructured interview relies heavily on the skills of the interviewer in extracting specialist knowledge Johnson (1994, p. 47), it was seen as inappropriate to use the unstructured interview in this study. In the main, the semi-structured interview worked well, in that many of the interviewees were focussed in their thinking from the questionnaire.
Through the interviews it was noticed that far more thought had gone into their questionnaire responses than was initially envisaged, probably due to the resulting discussions that took place around the institution from the questionnaire. The sample was limited to twenty lecturers involved in a variety of teams and the follow up interviews to five members of different teams (curriculum design team, mathematics team, middle management team, cross curricular team and an officer’s team). All questionnaires were completed as respondents were within easy access and were often gently encouraged to complete the survey.
Triangulation of the data is important in strengthening the validity of the results. Cohen and Manion (1994, p. 233) stressed that ‘The researcher needs to be confident that the data generated is not simply artefacts of one specific method of collection’. In this simple study by using two methods of data collection a better understanding of perceptions was achieved, in comparison to only using a questionnaire, or if only interviews had been the source of data. In order to help aggregate the data into an entity, mean values for questionnaire responses were calculated and used to analyse views.
Responses that were ‘strongly agree’ were assigned a rating of 1, ‘moderately agree’ was given a 2, ‘neutral’ – 3, ‘moderately disagree’ – 4, ‘strongly disagree’ – 5. The calculated mean value was then rounded to the nearest whole number value and then translated back to the appropriate response. For example, for statement 1 – ‘Teams contain ten members or less’, 18 responded ‘strongly agree’, 0 – ‘moderately agree’, 0 – ‘neutral’, 0 – ‘moderately disagree’, 2 – ‘strongly disagree’. So the mean value becomes: (18×1) + (0x2) + (0x3) + (0x4) + (2×5) = 1. 40 20
Rounding gives us a value of 1, which translates to a mean response for our sample that ‘strongly agree’ with the statement. If a person responded with ‘unable to rate’ the sample was reduced to 19 and reasons for this response were then investigated at the interview stage. (The weakness in this particular question is obvious as a quantity was requested. Katzenbach and Smith’s (1993, p. 45) clarification of their definition of teams indicated ten or less was an ideal number for members in a team, the statement was tolerated giving the investigator an idea if TSI management held similar views).
All statements were written in a manner that describe successful teams in accordance with the literature, if a respondent ‘strongly agrees’ to a statement regarding practices at TSI, he would be agreeing with the literature view of successful teams also, and TSI would appear to be running a successful team. The mean rating as described above will be closer to 1. Similarly unsuccessful teams would be indicated by a strongly disagree response and a mean rating closer to 5.