I liked this abstract of an article that was highlighted in this week’s online alert in the Curriculum Leadership Journal:
Managing conflict in school teams: the impact of task and goal interdependence on conflict management and team effectiveness
Conflict is usually considered a destructive force for any group work, and many school team managers go to great lengths to avoid it. However, a recent study conducted in Israel has suggested that conflict, if managed correctly, can be a key part of the work process and even improve team performance. The study involved data collected from disciplinary teams and their leaders at 149 primary schools. The participating disciplinary teams ranged in size from three to eight teachers and were distributed relatively evenly across maths, science, literature and language disciplines. All 923 teachers involved were female. A number of factors were measured, including task interdependence, or the degree to which team members relied on each other to do their jobs, and goal interdependence, or the level of commonality in individuals’ goals, rewards and feedback. Conflict management style was also measured with respect to two approaches highlighted in previous literature. The integrating style of conflict management involves active collaboration and open communication, while members of groups with a dominating style tend to firmly press for their own opinions and use their influence to have their ideas implemented. Team effectiveness was also reported by the team coordinators. In general, the integrating approach was more commonly used for managing conflict. Teams that rated highly in both task interdependence and goal interdependence (‘high-high’) were found to perform best, with no difference between groups rated high-low, low-high and low-low. This was also the combination showing the highest level of integrative conflict management. Groups with the most dominating style tended to be rated high on task interdependence and low on goal interdependence. Given the current trend towards teacher teamwork, it is important that teams be set up with explicit structural arrangements for handling conflict in an integrated, constructive manner. The study’s findings suggest that the best basis for this is to create an environment of high task and goal interdependence, a combination which in turn maximises team performance. Team members can also be trained to express ideas honestly and directly, to listen and respond sensitively, and to use strategies such as a formally designated devil’s advocate.