The Skill of Delegation

Being able to break down a task into manageable chunks can be challenging, even for adults.  Large, long-term projects see unfathomable unless you can see the parts through the whole.  Helping students break down projects or large tasks is a necessity.  Our boys need to be able to look at a long-term assignment and see it in sections rather than one scary piece.  But even if they can break a project into doable chunks, effectively delegating work when dealing with groups is almost as difficult as chunking the assignment.  Students seem to struggle with dividing tasks.  So, this begs the question, how can we teach the skill of effective delegation of work when our students are completing group projects or group work?

Today in STEM class, the students worked on the final project for our unit on Brook Trout and ecosystems.  The boys had to finalize research notes and craft a business letter that they would then send to a local state representative.  While the project was already chunked for the students on our class Haiku website, the students struggled to successfully divide tasks.  So, to remedy this situation, during the work period, my co-teacher and I meandered through the classroom working with each group on the skill of effectively delegating tasks.

We met with each group and discussed how to break up the various requirements.  We provided them structure for how to delegate work and then helped the facilitator for each group delegate the tasks and then monitor his group’s members.  Throughout the period, we then observed each group and offered them feedback on how they were working on their delegated tasks.  As a positive outcome for this lesson and activity, most of the facilitators we spoke with today felt as though their groups were much more productive due to the delegation of work.  Each student felt as though he had a task and purpose and worked on it diligently.  Because they knew what to do and how to do it, the groups worked well.  The monitoring of each individual’s work ethic by the group’s facilitator also helped to keep the groups focused and on task.

Delegation of work is a difficult skill for students to learn when working in groups.  What we’ve seen in the past when we’ve suggested that the groups delegate assignments is a haphazard attempt at group work.  All of the students are “working” on one task via a shared document.  While each student has no clear purpose or objective except to “work” on the task, the students generally struggle to stay focused.  Many of the students start surfing the net or playing games.  Some students become a distraction to their group.  Like all people, having a role and purpose in a group is important for success to be bred.  We found that our students need deliberate modeling and assistance in learning the skill of delegation.

At the close of the period, we debriefed what happened in class and the students shared that they felt much more committed and focused in class because they had delegated tasks in a specific manner.  The overall atmosphere in the class was more positive today because the students understood what needed to be done and how it was to be accomplished.  Sometimes telling students what to do isn’t enough.  They need specific directions on how to do it in order to see the big picture.  Teaching the skill of delegation takes time, patience, modeling, and practice.  Today brought about an a-ha moment for our students because we carefully and strategically taught each group how to delegate the assigned work.


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