By Mike Lehman
Title: Using CliftonStengths in the Classroom and Group Activities
Often, we focus on weaknesses during self-assessment. Whether you’re receiving feedback from your instructors, peers, or supervisors, assessment is largely based on what you lack rather than on the strengths and unique traits you offer.
Georgia Tech’s Effective Team Dynamics Initiative (ETDI) uses Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment to teach students, faculty, and staff methods to use their strengths to work effectively in a team. ETDI is founded on the belief that knowing your strengths makes you more effective and efficient in your life, groups, the workplace, and the classroom.
For students, implementing CliftonStrengths when organizing teams and the work that follows allows for more successful and complete projects. Many people are drawn to certain activities but not others. It’s important to understand your unique traits and how to harness them. Doing so creates a unique edge that leads to success through understanding individual talents.
For faculty, it’s essential to understand how to apply CliftonStrengths to group activities and teamwork. Faculty members can start by understanding how to effectively incorporate the CliftonStrengths Assessment into the organization of small activities and group projects.
In this article, we’ll go over different group activities you can use to apply CliftonStrengths in the classroom.
Why do the CliftonStrengths Matter?
There are many common misconceptions about the CliftonStrengths Assessment, including the most frequent misunderstanding: CliftonStrengths is a personality test. Instead, the CliftonStrengths Assessment uses results from paired statements to highlight your five key strengths.
The assessment aims to help individuals apply their self-understanding to their daily activities effectively. Recognizing your strengths allows you to better engage with others and their strengths and make your teams more effective.
CliftonStrengths Domains and Themes
Results from the CliftonStrengths Assessment are broken down into four domains, with 34 themes within these categories. The domains include:
- Strategic thinking
- Relationship building
For example, people with dominant themes in the executing domain know how to make things happen and implement ideas into tangible results. Influencers help their team reach a larger audience and can see things from a global point of view. Strategic thinkers analyze information to understand how a project can have a long-term impact, while Relationship builders hold teams together.
Within the four domains, there are 34 themes. CliftonStrengths uses these themes to identify talents and strengths that are unique to you. For example, one of the most common themes is an Achiever. If you are an Achiever, you are motivated and determined to accomplish something with your time. To form an effective team, Achievers are commonly paired with Learners. If you are a Learner, you have a joy of learning and want to improve constantly and continuously.
Another common example is the Woo theme. Woo, or winning others over, encapsulates people who enjoy connecting with others and meeting new people.
Why should I Know my CliftonStrengths?
Understanding your CliftonStrengths Assessment is important because it allows you to leverage your strengths in different contexts. Groups can have more effective team dynamics if each person knows and understands their strengths. The CliftonStrengths Assessment can be applied in small group activities within the classroom.
Using Group Activities to Apply CliftonStrengths in the Classroom
The university classroom, especially in the first and second years, largely revolves around group projects, small group assignments, and discussions. Using the CliftonStrengths in the classroom promotes a positive learning environment. Instructors can create customized assignments and activities focused on self-reflection and show students how to resolve conflict in their teams. Georgia Tech’s ETDI offers curriculum sets and individual and group activities.
Below are two group activities to apply CliftonStrengths in the classroom.
Strengths-Based Ice Breaker Activity
After taking the CliftonStrengths Assessment, instructors can have students claim their strengths. This activity has three learning goals:
- To develop a common language to discuss skills and strengths in the team
- To understand different ways individuals can contribute to and influence the team
- To build communication practices
Individually, students highlight the terms and phrases that stick out to them in their strengths report.
Following the individual activity, the instructor can break the class into teams so students can share their top strengths and discuss how they can benefit the team. The group activity allows students to introduce themselves to others, evaluate what they do best, and recognize their own and others’ unique traits. It also teaches them how their strengths can interact with the strengths of their team members.
Strengths-Based Team Building
When completing tasks as a team, it is important to understand team roles. To organize team roles, we need to consider how individual roles enable inclusive and innovative approaches to project challenges.
One such activity that promotes team building in ETDI’s curriculum set involves students completing tasks that focus on collaboration, contribution, and compromise. The activity explores the importance of team dynamics and the different roles that students are attracted to.
The activity requires an open space and a timer. It centers on the instructor giving ‘non-answers’ to questions, such as ‘whatever you think is best.’ The general framework of the group activity is:
- Ask students to organize themselves by major (2 minutes)
- Ask the students to re-organize themselves into a line by last name (3 minutes)
- Ask the students to re-organize themselves into a line based on birthdate without speaking (4 minutes)
- Ask the students to re-organize themselves in a line based on where they were born, from east to west, without speaking. For this part, students can use props (5 minutes)
After completing the activity, the class can discuss what they learned about their strengths through the exercise. Students can notice their preferred roles and the roles they naturally avoid. In this way, students can create a narrative that focuses on how they view themselves in a team and share it with others.
The next ETDI blog post will focus specifically on activities to use one-on-one with a tutor.
What Resources Does the ETDI Provide for Faculty?
ETDI offers curriculum sets for undergraduate and graduate students. The undergraduate curriculum set includes activities for first-year seminars and senior design. The graduate curriculum provides several modules, including:
- Innovation and Productivity in Teams
- Diversity, Identities, Contributions and Values
- Effective Communication
- Leveraging and Managing Conflict