TIMELESS WISDOM: “People acting together as a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could ever hope to bring about.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt

INTRODUCTION: The Director of Nursing at our college has always stressed to the counselors how important it is that students who want to go into nursing be responsible, manage time well, think critically, and have a “team player” personality. Regarding this latter trait, many students believe that they can do anything and everything on their own, and, according to our Director of Nursing, this belief is especially prevalent among pre-nursing students. Since interdependence is such an important soft skill in nursing, I wanted to create an experience that would show to pre-nursing students the value of being able to work in a team, as well as give them an opportunity to develop communication and critical thinking skills.

I presented this activity in a special section of our SFC1000 (Strategies for College for Pre-Nursing students) course team taught by our Director of Nursing and the Division Chair of Academic Enrichment, but it could be adapted for use by any educator who wants to help students realize the importance of interdependence, communication skills, and critical thinking.

This activity takes about 90 minutes, and, if necessary, can be split between two class periods (with the journaling done for homework and the debriefing session held during the second class period).

PURPOSE:

*To develop mutually supportive relationships fostering cooperation rather than competition in problem solving
*To communicate more effectively both as a speaker and a listener
*To improve critical thinking skills

SUPPLIES/SET UP:

The five handouts can be found in the RESOURCES section below.

*Handout 1: The Scenario
*Handout 2: Fact Sheet for Group 1
*Handout 3: Fact Sheet for Group 2
*Handout 4: The Solution
*Handout 5: Interdependence Self Assessment

If using the On Course textbook, have students read Chapter 5: Employing Interdependence prior to the activity.

DIRECTIONS:

1. Divide students into two groups and have group members sit together on opposite sides of the room.

2. Distribute Handout 1: “The Scenario” to both groups and ask them to read it. As the groups finish reading, inform them that they will have five minutes to choose their designated communicator.

3. Once the two communicators have been chosen and introduced to the other group, hand out the “Fact Sheets” to the appropriate group. Tell the groups they are free to begin, reminding them that they may only communicate through their elected communicator. When a communicator wants to talk, s/he comes to the middle of the room and is met by the other communicator where they hold their conversation. They may not exchange “Fact Sheets” or speak directly to members of the other group (other than the group’s chosen communicator).

4. Observe the groups in their discussions, taking notes about each group’s strategy, comments made among team members, and questions asked by one group of the other.

5. If students ask you questions, do not give additional information. Let the teams determine answers themselves.

6. Within 45-60 minutes the teams should be nearing the solution. If they seem to be having difficulty, you could suggest that they create a calendar showing the specific days and times, and suggest that they use this calendar to help solve the problem.

7. When a team finishes, its Communicator should submit the solution and rationale to you in writing. (See attached Handout 4: “The Solution.”) If the solution by the first team to finish is wrong, tell them to keep searching for the correct answer. If the solution is correct, give the other team the option to keep working toward the solution if they would like to.

8. Once you have received the correct solution and both teams have stopped working, go over the solution on the board step by step until the correct problem-solving process is clear to everyone. This is the step in which you assist students to develop critical thinking.

9. Now engage the class in a conversation about what transpired in their respective groups. The goal of the discussion is to draw out life lessons about Interdependence (the topic they read about in Chapter 5 from the On Course text, if you gave that assignment). You can start this conversation by revealing some of the comments you overheard while observing the groups. Focus on communication, group interaction, and cooperation vs. competition. For example, when I asked what they thought of the comment “Shhh, that’s not what they asked for…”, what followed was a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of being independent vs. interdependent. When one of the communicators asked for clarification on a question from the other communicator, we took the opportunity to explore active listening skills and what it takes to be a good listener. (15-20 minutes)

10. Distribute the handout titled “Interdependence Self-Assessment” for a journaling exercise. Use the journals as a stimulus to a follow-up discussion. (10-15 minutes)

OUTCOMES/EXPERIENCES:

When I handed out the fact sheets, students made comments such as “This is going to take forever” and “How are we ever supposed to figure this out?” Still, the two groups wanted to start figuring out the answer right away, and I needed to prompt them to find their designated communicators and introduce them to each other’s group.

Immediately, one group (Group 2) got into a tight little circle and started to work out the facts, writing down all the key information and strategizing about the questions to ask. The other group (Group 1) didn’t gather together like Group 2 and wanted to ask questions to Group 2 right away. It almost seemed that when the Group 1 communicator started asking questions to Group 2’s communicator it annoyed Group 2 as a whole because they weren’t “ready.” The activity continued with the groups asking questions of each other. Group 2 members appeared to give great thought to their questions and consulted with the entire group before asking Group 1. Members of Group 1 seemed to give little thought to their questions, sometimes asking the same question in a different way two or three times. When I was observing all of this, I had to be careful not to influence or interact with the groups.

Interestingly enough, Group 1 was discussing information like “Why go to Carter?” and “Ask about the antibodies…” while group 2 was discussing, “What information is missing?” and “They have more details than we do…” Each were looking at the problem from a different perspective and approaching the solution in a different way. In the end it was Group 2 that came up with the answer first, but what happened along the way was amazing.

I didn’t specify whether or not they needed to share more information than what was provided to them on the fact sheet. For example, Group 2 had deduced that it would take nine hours to get from St. Pottery Barn Hospital to Saving Faith Hospital. Group 1 had yet to figure this out. Group 1 asked Group 2, “How long does it take to get from St. Pottery Barn Hospital to Saving Faith Hospital?” The only information that Group 1 had was that the fastest they could travel between the hospitals was 7 mph. Group 2 had known that they had to travel 64 miles and had previously asked Group 1 “How many miles can we travel per hour?” resulting in the calculation of nine hours. “Technically” Group 2 didn’t have to share their newfound information if they didn’t want to since they had figured that out on their own by asking probing questions, but they did in order to save Bradley. Someone in the group did say, “We don’t have to tell them that” and someone else indicated, “Yes we do in order to save the child.” This was the first inkling that the project was working and students were working interdependently and the competition level was low making way for cooperation.

In the end, the groups did work well together, sharing information and asking questions to elicit answers to figure out the solution. I would say that Group 2 asked better questions, and therefore reached the solution more quickly. I feel that the two groups did come together to collaborate for a common goal; at times it appeared to be competitive, but cooperation won out in the end.

Some of the comments from the discussion and the later journals verified that they understood the purpose of this exercise:

“It’s best to be interdependent when you don’t know all of the information.”
“We needed to ask better questions; we sometimes went around in circles and could have been better active listeners.”
“We needed to use more open ended questions instead of closed ended questions.”
“If you don’t have good communication, it can take longer to achieve something.”
“Some of the groups made a separate little group and I think we should have all stayed working together; but then we all got back together and worked well together.”
“Proper communication and teamwork are vital for success.”
“It is best to be independent when you are trying to achieve personal goals and interdependent when you are working with others that have different opinions.”
And one of the best was…
“I would like to have the other team fax me their information and I would do the same to save time.”

This was not only a fun activity to do with the nursing students, but enlightening as well. I feel that the purpose of this exercise was clearly met. The students were receptive to the experience, and once they got into the Fact Sheets, it was difficult to get their attention.

The instructors of the course found the activity a good way to cover the concept of interdependence, and they asked me to do it again for their class next semester.

PERSONAL LESSONS:

A personal lesson that I took from observing these two groups was that life would be a lot easier if we could collaborate on more things. I look at my job and see that some people like to “hoard” information, and that can make my job more difficult. If I don’t ask the right questions when a colleague comes back from a meeting, for example, I might not get the information that I am seeking. I know that it is unrealistic to have enough time in the day to share everything that I or another colleague learns. Still, if we did an activity similar to this one within our department, perhaps the lesson of interdependence and information sharing would be recognized by all, in turn making our jobs easier.

SOURCE: This activity was my adaptation of one titled “Dracula has Risen from the Grave” that I learned from Susan Goodale of Pro-Act Option. The original activity is located in The Encyclopedia of Games for Trainers by Andy Kirby. Human Resource Development Press (Ringbound Ed.), 1992.

SUPPORT MATERIALS:

HANDOUT 1: The Scenario

Bradley is dying of heart disease and is in dire need of a heart transplant. Your team’s task is to save Bradley as soon as possible, but he can’t be moved and has to stay in the hospital that he is in. You currently reside in London, England, and Bradley does not. Your objective is to establish the earliest time that you could perform the transplant.

You and your fellow team members will be given information that will help you save Bradley. However, the other team will hold other essential information that you might need. The other team also needs the information that you have. The only way that you can gain the other team’s information is through your elected communicator, who is to communicate directly with the communicator from the other team. Throughout this process, the other team will be attempting to gain information from your team in the same way.

Your team must select one member to be your communicator.

Your goal is to submit to your instructor, in writing, the correct name of the day and the time when the operation can safely take place, and the correct rationale for the answer.

* * * * *

HANDOUT 2: Fact Sheet for Group 1

*Bradley is a child.
*Bradley is in Saving Faith Hospital.
*There is no direct flight from London to Carter Airport .
*The flight from London to Giddy-up takes 5 hours.
*Bradley can only be saved by a combination of the antibodies and the heart.
*This antibody doesn’t exist in Carter.
*The antibody can only be found at the Giddy-up Antibody Clinic and you have to sign for it.
*The plane from Giddy-up to Carter takes 1 hour.
*The train from Carter Airport to Pottery Barn Junction leaves the airport at 12 noon .
*The donor heart is at the St. Pottery Barn Hospital
*St. Pottery Barn Hospital is solar powered; therefore delicate operations (like harvesting a heart) can only be performed from sunrise to sunset in case of complications.
*The sun rises in Pottery Barn at 9:00 am and sets at 5:50 pm .
*The fastest you can travel to Saving Faith Hospital from St. Pottery Barn Hospital is 7 miles per hour because it is rocky cross-country and you are carrying precious cargo.
*The heart will last in the special cooler for 10 hours.

* * * * *

HANDOUT 3: Fact Sheet for Group 2

*Bradley is a child.
*There is no direct flight from London to Carter Airport.
*The next flight to Giddy-up is at 6:00 pm tonight.
*Bradley can only be saved by a combination of the antibodies and the heart.
*The Giddy-up Antibody Clinic is not open this Monday or Tuesday due to a local holiday.
*The plane from Giddy-up to Carter leaves at 2:00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday.
*The nearest railway station to Saving Faith Hospital is Pottery Barn Junction.
*The train from Carter airport to Pottery Barn Junction takes six hours and leaves the airport at 12 noon on Friday, Wednesday and Monday.
*The donor heart is in St. Pottery Barn Hospital, which is beside Pottery Barn Junction.
*St. Pottery Barn Hospital is solar powered; therefore delicate operations (like harvesting a heart) can only be performed from sunrise to sunset in case of complications.
*The operation to harvest the heart will take ½ hour
*St. Pottery Barn Hospital is 63 miles from Saving Faith Hospital.
*Today is Monday

* * * * *

HANDOUT 4: The Solution

The Solution: The earliest time for the transplant is 6:30 pm on Saturday night.

Rationale for Solution:

1. Flying today (Monday) at 6:00 pm, you will arrive at Giddy-up at 11:00 pm.
2. The life saving antibodies you need cannot be picked up until Wednesday morning, which means the first flight you can get to Carter Airport is the 2:00 pm Thursday.
3. You will arrive at Carter Airport at 3:00 pm Thursday. The next train is the Friday noon, arriving at Pottery Barn Junction at 6:00 pm, half an hour too late to operate at St. Pottery Barn Hospital. The earliest you can perform the operation is at 9:00 am Saturday. The operation will take ½ hour to perform.
4. It will take 9 hours to complete your walk to Saving Faith Hospital, which means by walking all day, you will get there at 6:30 pm Saturday night.

* * * * *

HANDOUT 5: Interdependence Self Assessment

1. Was your team clear and in agreement as to the overall goals, the task, and the method for solving the problem? Please explain.
2. In what ways did you contribute to the group? What role did you play?
3. When is it best to be independent and when is it best to be interdependent?
4. What is the life lesson of the Saving Bradley activity?

–Renee Prine, Counselor, Illinois Valley Community College, IL

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