What Are the Four Stages of Team Development?

You probably know the answer: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

If you answered the question correctly, what does it prove? Sure, you can recall the four stages of team development. But does this mean that you understand the principles and can apply them to real-world teams?

Compare the original question with these four alternatives:

  • What is an example of effective facilitation behavior during the norming stage?
  • What is an example of effective team-member behavior during the storming stage?
  • Which team-development stage is the most critical one? Why do you think so?
  • What additional stages would you add to the four team-development stages?

I am sure that you have noticed the differences between the original question and the latter questions. The latter questions require more thinking. They reflect the type of questions that professionals face more frequently. They are the questions that challenge the participants. They require a deeper understanding of the principles. They are intellectually stimulating.

Closed Questions

Unfortunately, however, the type of questions that are most frequently used in training games is similar to the original question. This type features closed convergent questions that fall in the one-correct-answer category. These are recall questions that require the lowest levels of thinking. They are meaningless, impersonal, mechanical questions that patronize the learner by asking her to determine if a statement is true or to select the best answer among four insipid alternatives.

Why is these type of closed questions so frequently used in training activities? Because it is easy to determine whether the answer is correct or not, because the answers can be evaluated by any player, and because you can program a computer to check the answer.

The use of closed questions conveys a strong impression that players are incapable of producing or recognizing creative responses to open-ended questions.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe recall questions are very important. Beginning learners should master the fundamental facts, figures, terminology, and definitions. They should practice these items until they acquire the required level of fluency.

But I am bothered by the perception that games and interactive exercises are effective only for drill practice. Most trainers and participants and managers believe that games are limited to basic knowledge and comprehension. These perceptions are reinforced by the trivial questions that are incorporated in most instructional games. For example, people look at this question:  By what percent did the Asian population in the U. S. grow in the decade 1980 to 1990?  and wonder what that has to do with the skills of getting along with a co-worker from a different culture.

Open Questions

For the past 30 years, I have designed and used games with open-ended, divergent questions that require application, analysis, evaluation, problem-solving, and synthesis. My secret? A fundamental belief that the players are capable of comparing different responses and deciding which one is the best. Also, a belief that by comparatively judging other players’ responses, you master the criteria for effective responses and learn to apply them to your own responses. For example, in the PEER JUDGEMENT frame-game, participants take turns to play the role of a judge and select the best response to an open-ended question.

Here is a closed question: Is it not time for you to start using open-ended questions in your training games? Give yourself 1 point if you answered “Yes”. Here is an open-ended question: What strategies can we use for encouraging players to produce and recognize creative responses? Decide for yourself how many points you deserve.

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Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoffhttp://softskillsforsuccess.com/
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.


  1. Thank you, Sandy, for pointing out the limiting learning experience caused by this kind of questioning.

    Particularly in DEI it is completely counterintuitive to one of the goals of the training itself: Accepting that there can be many true answers to a question because people have different lived experiences.

    Another of the goals is to increase creativity in the organization by having access to these different lived experiences – killing creativity in the classroom seems to model the opposite.

    The right/wrong line of thought is a sibling of the win/lose mentality that team building is supposed to counter. So let us model win/win – and make the participants feel like the adults we want them to be.