The very first lesson I received when I began at UAB was how to work in a team.

Teamwork is a staple of a university curriculum between study groups and research projects and just attending classes like labs and recitations, but, in the Science and Technology Honors Program, team work is essential. As a part of each and every SciTech class, we were sorted into different groups to accomplish various tasks, whether it was making a concept map that would convey a research concept or crafting a service learning project and presenting its results at the expo. Throughout all of these team activities, both SciTech related and not, I came to learn that there are three types of teamwork experiences. Throughout the rest of this article, the types of teamwork experiences will be laid out so that you may be able to classify each of your experiences into one of them.

The first type of teamwork experience is the “fun” type. The fun type involves a group of individuals that all mesh just the right amount to get the task done. No one is doing too much work and no one is doing too little work. This sort of team dynamic is rare and tends to only appear once in a blue moon.

The second type of teamwork experience is the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad type,” henceforth shortened to the “stressful” type. The stressful type is characterized by one person, usually yourself if you have labeled the experience thusly, being saddled with almost the entire project. This is the plague of overachievers and can occur in just about everything from a simple worksheet to a full-blown research poster. If you have ever been a part of a team project and finished it trying to figure out what you actually contributed to the finished product, you may have experienced this type, just from a different perspective, in which case you can refer to this type as the “easy A” type (and don’t feel bad for having this perspective, we’ve all been there). The frequency of this experience also tends to increase dramatically as the semester moves forward.

The third type of teamwork experience is the “competitive” type. The competitive type usually results from sticking too many overachievers that do not mesh well in a group together. Within this type of teamwork experience, there are two discrete subtypes. The first subtype is the “direct confrontation” type. The direct confrontation type often involves a fight for dominance between the overachievers within the group, until one comes out on top as the leader or some form of peace is reached, usually through division of major points of the project so that each leader type has something to manage independently. The second subtype is the “indirect confrontation” type. The indirect confrontation type is represented through the choice of a “leader.” “Leader” is in quotations because this person is allowed to think that they are the leader when, in fact, they are just acting as the figurehead of the team. Notably, another member of the team is the one that actually accomplishes the leadership role, whether this is through finalizing the task at hand or keeping the group on some form of schedule.

Throughout my education at UAB so far, I have experienced plenty of every type of teamwork experience, and for each experience I feel I have learned how to better accomplish teamwork.

Specifically, I have learned that communication is key. (1) If everyone is on the same page with what the team task is, it is much easier to accomplish. (2) If the team decides some form of schedule for the task(s) being completed, whether that is to be done with this part in 20 minutes or in 20 days, then things will sail much smoother and be much less stressful. And, lastly (3) Teamwork is an opportunity to make friends with people you may not have talked to under a different circumstance.

The most important lesson I have so far received from UAB is how to be team player.