Teamwork – Dr. Deborah Jean Harding

hardingDr Deborah Jean Harding – Amarillo College

I am very aware that most corporations now, along with many agencies, have a collaborative and team approach to problem-solving and product construction/marketing. I have both friends and relatives working in these industries who made extremely good livings by being team leaders, including my son. This approach IS the model of all future business, health care, education, and industry, as far as I have seen in all the literature I’ve read on the subject. Since my PhD was in Group Processes (Experimental Psychology -Social Psychology focus), this area is of interest to me, and one that I push with my students.

The Assessment

In all of my classes, we incorporate team building assignments.

  1. CHILD PSYCHOLOGY: A series of 3 age-appropriate skits for each team in Child Psychology over Love and Logic principles (their secondary application text for the course). These skits are put on for our LAB SCHOOL or other area DAY CARES as a part of their parenting services. Groups are based on their interest in the course including those going into teaching, mental health, coaching, healthcare or parenting. The focus of their skit is related to their interest. The purpose of the skit is to apply the concepts to real life situations where they utilize love and logic principles to deal with a problematic interaction. They develop 3 age appropriate skits for toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents. Part of the team are involved in developing a handout, another part of the team creates a “healthy snack” and a menu handout with healthy snack ideas to give to parents. Finally, the third part of the team includes the skit which involves a spokesperson/narrator, someone developing a power point presentation, and then the actors.
  2. CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY: The second teamwork assignment I’d like to share involves presenting a case profile for Criminal Psychology over a selected serial killer. “Student Investigators” develop a profile, a case study file, and a power point presentation to present to fellow “student investigators” in the class. As before, there are several “smaller teams” who work on the 3 different aspects of the presentation.
  3. SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: The last teamwork assignment involves a problem-based learning scenario where student teams are assigned based on their interest and/or major. We watch films and two characters are selected from the films for the teams to interact with. The first character is a White teen who has affiliated himself with a hate group, from the character Danny in American History X. The second character is a Hmong (Asian) teen who is being bullied in his gang-riddled neighborhood, from the character Thao in The Grand Torino. Student teams are working with these characters based on their race/ethnicity. White students work with Thao, while Black/Hispanic/Asian/Middle Eastern students work with Danny. Their focus is as either a physical or occupational therapist or nurse-PA, or as a teacher, or counselor, depending upon their area of interest. They use persuasion and attitude change techniques to gain compliance in their assigned characters changes, involving their area of expertise. The purpose of this assignment is for students to address issues of culture, as they relate to interaction, along with using the course information on persuasion and attitude change.


Some of the parameters that I include in these assignments to deal with group challenges and difficulties include the following:

  1. In class time to work on projects since so many students are managing difficult schedules outside of college, including jobs and child-rearing.
  2. Lack of participation and getting off target: I include 4 levels of assessment of the project including i) student assessment of their portion of the project and their level of contribution; ii) student assessment of members of their team and others contributions that are submitted for my eyes only; iii) class assessment of the project presentation and iv) instructor’s rubric guided and written feedback assessment at 3 stages of the project including conception, development in groups, and finished project. Students all receive an individual and a group grade on this project.  Frequent assessment and meeting with groups is critical!
  3. Lack of interest: Assignment to groups based on shared interests or majors
  4. Social Loafing: The ability for groups to “fire” a group member who is not participating or carrying their load, and that member’s right to try to get other groups to “hire them”. If they can’t, they are required to complete a project on their own. This really cuts down on social loafing!
  5. Missing targets and procrastination: Clear instructions of each part of the project, guidelines for working in groups, as well as transparent grading criteria that are available from the onset of the project. I include a checklist for students in their packet of instructions. I also have benchmarks along with way that are graded. I


  • Assess their progress throughout the project with clear due dates to prevent procrastination. I recommend you meet individually with groups and members to help them develop team strengths.
  • Handle personality issues straight up with all group members present!
  • As well, make every effort to connect the project to their academic and life interests, so that it is a valuable learning process in something related to their real life!


I’ve provided multiple links below over the use of PROBLEM BASED LEARNING for sites that the students receive and that I recommend on the topic:

As well, here are some excellent sites on TEAMWORK in classroom projects. All three of these are from the ERIC website and are fantastic sources!