It’s an entertaining feat to be pushed into a group with a few other people you’ve just met. When this would happen to me, especially during my undergraduate career, it would go splendidly well with no major issues (spoiler: this might’ve happened, once), or I would enter into a group that would make me feel like I was on a reality TV show. There were definitely a few times I found myself waiting for Dr. Watts to pop out from the shadows along with Ashton Kutcher to tell my team members and I that we’d been Punk’d. However disappointing, this never happened; so my team members and I had no other choice but to figure out how best to proceed. One specific group experience I had in an undergraduate course was when 4 other people and I (1 of whom was already a friend of mine – salvation!) had to write, film, and edit a PSA. As I was the only extrovert in the group, we came to an all but immediate decision to center the PSA around facts while capitalizing on one team member’s video editing talent – no acting necessary. Although it might’ve originally seemed we were “hiding” due to what many would classify as weakness (we were all camera shy), we actually ended up playing to our strengths by focusing on what would make this PSA something that could grab the attention of our target audience. We discussed the topic, a range of angles (both conceptually and visually) to take for the PSA, and threw in several creative cuts along the way. At the end of the project period, our professor was extremely impressed and actually showed the PSA as an example to the next semester class, and a good example of a PSA at that! By playing to our strengths in regards to research and creativity, we made a successful PSA without the acting necessary to create a conceptual narrative.

Another example of team-based learning I have experienced during my time at UAB took place in the outskirts of what we might normally categorize as academia: leadership. During undergrad, I was a member of the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, or GCL. An integral part of GCL was each student’s involvement in leadership volunteer opportunities outside of the classroom (although they were often integrated into our classroom assignments and readings). One of the most interesting things I have done while at UAB was an extension of one of my GCL classes – I acted as a moderator in a community forum in one of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods. The forum focused on bullying among school-aged children and was open to the community. As a moderator, I made sure that the conversation stayed on topic and no particular individuals spoke too much/too little. Of course, with my being a sophomore in college, the prospect of keeping a room of concerned parents averaging at least 10 years older than me was a tad daunting. Luckily, I was one of three moderators and was able to tag team with the others to ensure the forum was a useful and collaborative experience for everyone there. In GCL, cohorts were traditionally broken up by year, so you certainly got to know your fellow honors students. Through the several service learning experiences we shared, we learned what it meant to serve as a group and how to act as a follower or as a leader when the time was right.

Teams are all different and they all serve separate purposes to add challenges, remove apprehension, or something in between. Freshman year, some friends and I became involved in what was essentially a Calculus I final survival group wherein we all studied well into the throes of hysteria. But being a part of the group was well worth it. We had the opportunity to discuss problems we were having, to take turns teaching one another, and to take advantage of having strong social support in a stressful stage of the learning process. We all made it through the final alive and well! (…only to be rewarded with Calculus II. Oh well.) So, although I have several negative memories of teams I have been a part of during my time at UAB, I must say that I learned how to be efficient with my and my group’s time in figuring out what strengths we could utilize from each person to help us through an assignment, a final, or even a semester.