Basic Principles of the Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork

The basic principle of the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork that is used by most successful companies is grouping the right people together so that they can combine their talents and use their unique sets of skills to find the best ways to solve a problem or achieve a goal. The rationale behind this is simple: if you want a problem solved, find people who are passionate about the nature of the problem. They will most likely know a lot about it, have the right set of skills to solve it, and be fascinated by it, which helps them to work creatively — yet effortlessly — to have the problem solved in no time.

Such an approach to teamwork means that the whole working environment becomes pleasant and exciting because people are doing the things that excite them; they can mobilise all the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes and put their hearts into the task. Eventually, the employer can be sure that the project will be approached and completed by a dedicated team, the quality will not be compromised, and the outcome will be more than satisfactory.

This approach is also cost- and time-effective, as it helps to avoid problems related to missing deadlines and restructuring the team. The same approach can be easily adopted by teachers and used in a classroom environment by following the principles of the Talent-Based Approach.

Know Your Students’ Talents

This is the most important principle of the Talent-Based approach. As the name suggests, the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork means that you need to know your students well and be aware of the unique sets of skills they possess, the things they are good at, and the topics and themes they are passionate about. Knowing this will help you group your students in teams effectively, match their skills with the nature of your projects, and most importantly, plan the right projects that suit your students’ skills and talents.

The Talent-Based approach seems to be a natural continuation of the EYFS Unique Child theme and helps students realise their full potential, become more confident as individuals, and be more aware of their own assets. And the best part is that since observing students is already part of teachers’ assessment work anyway, you won’t need to do any additional prep work to get ready for the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork. 

Plan the Right Projects

Matching your students’ talents with the right topic, project, or theme might seem challenging at first, and you may even think that it will be impossible to find projects that match all your students’ skills and interests. You might also be afraid that the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork may prevent you from covering your curriculum. If your assumption is that you need to team your students according to their assets, it might turn out that not all of your students are actually “matchable” with the project you came up with. What if you proposed a project about knights and castles and only a few students are interested in the topic? What will you do with the ones who are not interested?

It seems like a challenge, but it might help you deliver more tailor-made lessons while still covering your curriculum. The key to success is planning the right kind of teamwork projects that also will appeal to students’ different talents and interests while covering most of the curriculum you are supposed to deliver. What you need to do is break down your main project into stages or aspects that appeal to different skills and interests.

There are several effective approaches to Talent-Based Teamwork projects:

Topic/Theme-Based

For example, while covering the Knights and Castles, theme you may break it down into the following aspects: battling and main historical events, construction and technology, everyday life in the castle including food, clothing, games, etc. Then, you group your teams according to the aspects that you think should appeal to them the most. This way you will have all the students who like one specific aspect working together, who will be more than happy to explore it further.

Skill-Based

You may also break down your projects according to the skill sets that your students will necessarily need to complete them. For example, to organise a charity event, your students will need the following skills: public speaking, active listening, drawing and sketching, visual design, computer skills, etc. You may have one team design an invitation poster to a charity event, another prepare an opening welcome speech for the event, while the third will create a plan of the entire event. This way you will have each team working on a slightly different task and all their members will be happy to volunteer their talents. At the same time, you will have the whole theme/topic covered from different perspectives.

Mixing Skills

This scenario is the closest to everyday reality and should be adopted as often as possible. However, teachers might feel more comfortable trying out the two above scenarios first as this one is the most challenging. To mix skills, you will come up with a project in which extensive use of various specific talents and skills is needed. For the project to be successful, the team will need to comprise of the members who can volunteer these unique talents and skills.

For example, the team might need one person who feels confident about public speaking, another who has some coding skills, one with painting or drawing talent, etc. All of them will need to work together and each of them will have something else to do, but when put together they will all bring their talents to life. While planning these kind of projects, the teacher will first need to break the project down to individual tasks or steps to be taken, and then decide which skills are required to complete those tasks or steps — and finally, which students are best suited to do so.

All of the above are promising ways to begin the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork, and each of them will help your students realise that they possess unique talents, skills, and attitudes that are needed in real life. When volunteered to the right project, they can make a huge difference.

This approach may boost your students’ confidence and raise awareness of their own assets and of the contexts, projects, and situations in which they can make best use of these assets. Most importantly, it will invite them to believe that work can be fun and that they do not need to give up on their talents to do the things they are not passionate about, as there is always a place where their skills can and will make a difference.

For a further examination of the strategy’s foundation, read “A Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork.”

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Vito Matt and Magdalena Matt are Curriculum Developers and Instructional Designers for e-learning courses, interactive workshops and conferences, and educational mobile app games.

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