Keeping Small Working Groups Motivated

Last weekend I had an opportunity to collaborate with another organization on a workshop in which we had participants develop an 80-item rubric designed to evaluate the competence of eye care professionals.

A big chunk of the time we set aside for this workshop was to have small groups work for 90-120 minute periods of time on rubric development. That’s a long time to request small groups to hunker down and focus on a repetitive, sometimes tedious task. As we designed the workshop, we kept asking ourselves: how can we keep people motivated to stay focused and productive during these long stretches?

Our solution was a simple visual aid, a sort of progress thermometer. Every time a group completed a portion of their rubric, they could grab a marker and fill in a portion of their thermometer.

Thermometer 1

Thermometer 2


At first, participants were a bit hesitant to grab a marker and fill in a portion of the thermometer. Then they found it a useful way to track their progress. Eventually it turned into a bit of a competition over who could complete more rubric components more quickly (we designed several quality checkpoints into the lesson plan to ensure quality wasn’t sacrificed for speed).

In the end, these flipchart-based visual aids turned out to be a wildly successful way to track progress and keep participants motivated through long stretches of small group work.

Have you found other methods to keep individuals or small groups motivated when you’ve asked them to spend long chunks of time on repetitive or tedious tasks? Let’s hear your best ideas in the comment section!

4 thoughts on “Keeping Small Working Groups Motivated

    • Thanks Tracy. It’s funny – I hadn’t expected those thermometers to be so motivational… I actually originally just wanted them so I could see how much groups were accomplishing (there were a bunch of groups and I couldn’t monitor all of their progress at once).

      When they started filling them in and we started making a big deal about it, other groups began focusing more so that they could fill in their thermometers as well!

    • Thanks Tim. And namaste from India!

      Yeah, at first it was just kind of an idea that I threw out that could make it a little more fun and visual.

      But of course, especially with a group of highly driven people, the competitiveness definitely kicked in!

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