Thursday’s Tip: Community-Building vs. Team-Building

Wiesbaden students build Corps castle for Tin Can Construction project
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While searching out links for yesterday’s post, I noticed how the terms “community-building” and “team-building” were interchanged for the same kinds of activities. There seems to be some confusion between the two terms and the purpose each fulfills. Each can support the other, but they are two very practices that fill different needs.

Community-building is what you do to build relationships with and among students in a classroom (or school). These kinds of activities promote a positive learning environment where students feel comfortable to share and take risks. A strong classroom community supports the achievement of all.

Team-building happens within small groups, particularly those in cooperative learning structures. When groups are set for a project or activity, team-building helps team members to get to know their mates. Granted, in a lot of smaller school schools, students may already know a lot about each other. However, they don’t always know how to work together or how each of them learns. We have to create instances where leadership, strengths, and needs are revealed so that teams can be more successful.

Community-building can support team-building. If a class already has a strong communal feel, they are more likely to carry that same feeling over to their smaller groups. When students feel ownership and pride in their classroom community, they will feel that it is important to contribute to their cooperative groups.

Team-building can support community-building. Even though a classroom environment may support a strong community, individual students may not fully buy-in with the idea that every classmate has value in said community. Team-building helps support community-building on a micro level. Students learn more about and how to work with each student in their team, strengthening the bonds of the class overall.

While much of the difference is just semantics, it is key to understand the purposes of and relationships between community- and team-building. How have you used one to support the other? Where do you see the biggest difference between community- and team-building? What activities can be easily adapted to support both?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.