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Online Team Dynamics Course Provides Support to Non-Profits


August 12, 2021
PCOM Georgia biomedical sciences student and team dynamics course graduate Sean Williamsby Sean Williams (MS/Biomed '22)

Seventeen graduate students in the team dynamics course from both the Suwanee and Philadelphia campuses completed the online class by supporting the missions of not-for-profit organizations near and far. The course, part of the Master's in Biomedical Sciences curriculum in the Organizational Leadership concentration and the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies program, pivoted from an in-person class to a virtual format last year, but didn’t lose its focus on giving back.

Drafting a team charter

At the start of the program, students were placed in teams and tasked to create a team charter that each member would agree to follow. A team charter is a document developed in a group/team setting that clarifies team direction while establishing boundaries. The charter also provides the information needed to reduce the risk of rework, enabling the team to get it right the first time.

Stages of a team

Students were taught early in this course that teams aren't forged overnight. Instead, they go through different stages, known as forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. First, the team needs to develop. This is when members start working together. During this stage, there is storming and forming. Storming is when the team enters a situation where they need to work together, but they may not be able to find common ground with the other team members. The norming stage takes place after everyone is more comfortable working with members of their team. Performing happens once all the group members have grown to know each other and can function as an effective unit to pursue their shared goals. Finally, like many teams, after the job, task or project is complete, the adjourning stage is reached, signifying the team's end.

Overcoming team dysfunction

As each team transitioned through the stages, they had to be mindful of the five dysfunctions of a team: trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results. Trust is the foundation for every team. To build it, there must be vulnerability among the team members. Each group found its own ways to build trust.

Students learned throughout the course that conflict is inevitable, and most importantly, not all conflict is destructive. Every member of the team was encouraged to speak freely and respectfully.

From the first day of the course, class members were committed to learning how to become influential leaders. Thanks to creating the team charter, each team member was held accountable for their assigned roles and responsibilities. Results were measured through the completion of each team's service project, various presentations and individual growth through the course.

Leading teams through conflict

Throughout the team dynamics course, students learned about situations that teams may face.

“It was important to include real-time content affecting teams now in the midst of COVID-19,” adjunct faculty member Emma Reynolds-Middleton said.

One challenge for the students was dealing with remote teams, something they have experienced over the past year during the pandemic. Teams learned to deal with technological difficulties, scheduling challenges, and connecting with peers through video conferencing and chat rooms when they knew each another only slightly.

Throughout the course, students were taught how to apply strategies to overcome conflicts, break down communication barriers, and respect multigenerational differences on teams. By repeatedly working in small teams throughout the semester, students received experience leading remote teams. They also evolved as contributors on highly functional teams.

PCOM's online team dynamics course allowed students to learn about team management and leadership roles while supporting local non-profit organizations
A look at the team service projects

The virtual environment did not stop each team from finding a way to support various organizations. For example, each team selected and was able to support non-profit organizations. The teams assisted the following organizations:

  • Helping Mamas – Team Fantastic Four included Aaliyah Brown (MS/Biomed ‘22), Dhwani Mistry (MS/Biomed ‘22), Najah Davis (MS/Biomed ‘22) and Darlene Okafor (MS/Biomed ‘22). They assisted with counting, organizing, sorting and distributing donated clothing and sanitary items to women and children across Georgia. They sorted 2,180 items of clothing, shoes and diapers.
  • VocaliD – Team JM2 consisted of Jaci Carithers (MS/Biomed ‘22), Mikayla Grenon (MS/Biomed ‘22) and Matthew Hicks (MS/Biomed ‘22). This team provided up to ten hours of voice recordings contributing to the growth of the organization's database utilized to reverse engineer digital voices for those that are unable to speak on their own.
  • Atlanta Community Food Bank – Team Young Money included Priya Merai (MS/Biomed ‘22), Young Ye (MS/Biomed ‘22) and Raven Waymyers (MS/Biomed ‘22). The team did their part to fight hunger in the community by stocking shelves, sorting and packaging food, assembling grocery carts and breaking down used packaging.
  • Include Me Advocacy Group in Tennessee – Team One is None compromised of Langston Scott (CAGS ’22), Sean Williams (MS/Biomed ‘22), Maryam Vessalpour (MS/Biomed ‘22 )and Mierra Robinson (MS/Biomed ‘22). Team members remotely assisted individuals with neurogenetic conditions within the special needs community, such as Williams Syndrome and Asperger’s syndrome, with their workforce development workshop. The workshop helped people identify their future educational and career goals.
  • 7Cups – Team The Trinity included Teah Bussell (MS/Biomed ‘22), Tiffani Holness (MS/Biomed ‘22) and Dionandre King (DO ’22) from PCOM’s Philadelphia campus). Team members served as online volunteer listeners to people who are seeking help with mental health issues.
Lessons learned

Working in teams gave students the opportunity to learn and blend strengths within their teams. It also allowed for learning opportunities and conflict resolution. In all cases, effective leadership remained the core ingredient to healthy and functional teams.

In addition, students gained a heightened sense of perspective about agency needs. Students gained first-hand experience on how teams work together, and they acknowledged the importance of effective communication (among volunteers, between volunteers and others). The learning opportunity was invaluable.

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science, and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500.

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