7 Understand the Principles of Effective Teamwork

Alice Macpherson

Now that you have identified what you hope to achieve through teamwork in your learning community, consider how you will form effective teams.

Five Basic Elements of Effective Teams

Positive interdependence, individual accountability, group processing, skills in communication, promotive interaction
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim


Effective teams share five key characteristics:

Positive Interdependence


Members believe they are linked together; they cannot succeed unless the other members of the group succeed (and vice versa).

They sink or swim together.

Individual Accountability

The performance of each individual member is assessed and the results given back to the group and the individual

Group Processing

At the end of its working period, the group processes it’s functioning by answering two questions:

  • What did each member do that was helpful for the group?
  • What can each member do to make the group work better?

Skills in Communication

Necessary for effective group functioning.

Members must have – and use – the needed leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management skills.

Promotive Interaction


Members help, assist, encourage, and support each other’s efforts to learn.[1]



Complete the quiz below to strengthen your knowledge of the five elements of effective teams.



Now that you understand the characteristics of effective teams, move to the next section to discover how good teams develop and grow through their life cycle.

  1. Johnson, D., T. Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1998). Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom (Vol. 47). https://doi.org/10.5926/arepj1962.47.0_29


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