In essence, the meaning of individual accountability in regards to cooperative learning is this: Each member learns together, but performs alone. This mindset ensures that no one member can take credit or blame from the work of others. At the same time, though, each member of a productive team or group shares a sense of responsibility to the other members. There must be a common goal that is clear enough for each team member to be able to measure whether or not the group is successful at achieving this goal, and whether or not individual members are successful at achieving this goal as well. Individuals that hold themselves accountable for their own actions - both positive and negative - tend to perform better than those who do not. Furthermore, teams that hold one another accountable perform better overall as well.
Strong communication and social skills
In order to have a strong and effective team there must be strong and effective communication among that team. Effective communication and accountability are closely intertwined, as it is important to have strong social and communication skills to practice group accountability. Unfortunately, the way that team members interact with each other is often ignored or overlooked by supervisors. Many tend to think that as long as the job is getting done, everything is alright. In reality though, there may be many cracks in the formation, and this means that it is only a matter of time before everything crumbles. Therefore, it is important for leaders to focus on what it actually takes to achieve a goal, including the way team members interact with each other. Team trust, conflict management, leadership skills, social skills, and communication skills can all be enhanced with various team-building programs and activities.
Positive interdependence with the recognition of others
It is critical for every team member to be able to recognize his or her own role, as well as what he or she is responsible and accountable for in comparison to everybody else. Each team member should be willing and eager to fully participate and to put forth as much effort as possible to see the group move toward achieving its overall goal. Unfortunately, this can be quite difficult at times. Team members often lose track of their own individual roles and goals when the team goal becomes more complex. It is important for team members to revisit their personal roles and individual goals from time to time, in order to stay on track throughout the entirety of the project. While it is important to remember these things about yourself, it is also important to recognize and encourage the roles, goals, and achievements of others. Be sure to remind and encourage your teammates to connect the present (what they are currently learning) with the past (what they have previously learned). This is where effective communication and strong social skills come into play. Team members should be able to effectively explain to one another what they have learned, or are currently learning, and should be able to help one another with this if needed, as well.
Whether you have a big team project coming up or you feel that your team could use a little overall strengthening, cooperative learning is the way to go. Explain to your team what cooperative learning is, the importance of it, and how to achieve it. Don’t forget, primarily focus on these three important elements - individual and group accountability, strong social skills, and positive interdependence with the recognition of others - and you’ll be well on your way to team progress and success.