Teamwork – Dr George Williams, Jr.
The implementation regarding Teamwork depends not only on your skills, but on your attitudes as well; based upon my experience at my institution. As Dean of Student Success and Assistant Professor of Education a variety of working relationships exist among staff I interact with daily. Greater interpersonal skills are necessary if we are to work together effectively and at more complex levels. I’m learning that the development of effective working relationships among staff is a gradual process which requires considerable time and skill. I’m reminded that the development of an effective team requires a positive attitude and commitment toward teamwork, coupled with an understanding of what teamwork involves. It requires practicing teamwork skills, which I do in my own department, but should be done more university-wide.
First, depending on the objectives of the assignment, I assess the team’s final product (e.g., design, report, presentation), their group processes (e.g., ability to meet deadlines, contribute fairly, communicate effectively), or both. Second, group performance must be translated into individual grades, which raises issues of fairness and equity. Complicating both these issues is the fact that neither group processes nor individual contribution are necessarily apparent in the final product.
In addition to evaluating the group’s output, I find ways to determine how groups functioned and the extent to which individuals contributed to the effort. This isn’t always easy, but I follow general principles that guide and implement the right approach for the goals and context.
- Assess individual, as well as group, learning and performance – for example, I assign a group grade for the presentation, but also require all the team members to write a short, individual paper summarizing what they learned from the assignment and what they contributed to the team. If the individual piece demonstrates a poor understanding of the material or a low level of participation in the group, I reserve the right to adjust the individual’s final grade. If it is particularly informed, thorough, or demonstrates an exceptionally high contribution to the team, I raise the individual’s grade by a full letter grade.
- Assess process as well as product – for example, I assign a multi-stage phase project where students work together in teams over much of the semester. Over the course of the semester, I periodically ask students to evaluate both the dynamics of the team as a whole and their own contributions, and to reflect on ways to improve both as the project continues. I use a planning form to identify their progress on the project. At the end of the project, I ask students to complete a peer evaluation for every member of their team, indicating each member’s contribution to the group. The individual grade is based, in equal parts, on how each student’s teammates evaluated contributions to the group and on the quality of the feedback provided.
- Make your assessment criteria and grading scheme clear – for example, it’s always important to articulate my performance criteria so students understand my expectations and standards. However, in my courses, a criterion for evaluating both product and process is communicated by allowing each to group develops a rubric for their own final project collectively. I advise students that they should include categories within the rubric to include, but not limited to planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project.
While students’ perception of teamwork is influenced by personal factors, this perception affects their performance as group members.
|One team member is not doing their share of the work.||Remind the team member that they will be assessed not only for individual contributions but also by their participation in the team effort.|
|One team member is late for meetings, or does not arrive at all.||Remind them that if they don’t show up, their participation mark will suffer.|
|Some students do not care for the idea of group work and can be apathetic, or even on occasions actively hostile to the whole idea.||Tell the students the benefits! Among the potential benefits which educators should stress to students are the social, psychological, and learning benefits, the much greater chance of being received appreciatively by potential employers, and the fact that much of their future careers will almost certainly involve working in groups with a diverse range of people who will have a wide variety of skills and abilities. Experience of working with others of differing backgrounds and capabilities is therefore likely to be highly beneficial..|
- Engage students in cooperative and collaborative learning activities. With these techniques, students share the ownership of the course content, making it more meaningful.
- Assigned at least two dates in advance for “Group Debriefing.” This is an opportunity to spend an intimate time with each team and engage in conversation about the final product and the dynamics of the team.
- Facilitating group work is difficult because it takes time away from course content, although learning the process is part of the content. Given the short amount of time and the amount of material that is expected to be covered in any given semester; however, I am always faced with the tension of balancing group work with content. When students develop the appropriate working relationships, they work more efficiently and are more productive. By facilitating group work, I also noticed that class discussions in my courses have moved from static, segregated topical discussions to broad ranging, all-encompassing discussions that flow more smoothly and represent the students’ ability to make connections and synthesize ideas.
- Detter-Schmelz, D. R., Kennedy, K. N., and Ramsey, R. P. (2002). Enriching our understanding of student team effectiveness. Journal of Marketing Education, 24 (2), 114-124.
- McKendall, M. (2000). Teaching groups to become teams. Journal of Education for Business, May/June, 277-282.