Teamwork – Dr Mo Cuevas
Teaching teamwork at our university, in the Social Work program, is very important. The field of social work requires the ability to collaborate and work with other professionals for the benefit of your clients. This however can be difficult since the field of social work is not only a science with clear findings, but maybe even more so, an art. Working effectively with a team is a part of that art. We tell our students that while working in teams, they need to remember that a team can be defined differently than working within a group. A team is a group of individuals who work together to accomplish a shared goal, rather than a group of individuals working separately to get a goal accomplished. When students are put into small groups defined as teams, the nature of these teams is not only to complete the assignments, but to also learn how to work effectively as a TEAM.
Part of the content of this course is learning about groups and group dynamics. This is the second lesson and where students first complete a team project. They are defining some of the group concepts presented in their own words and giving examples from their lives. Then they complete a reflection assignment about working on their team, illustrating different roles and dynamics using their team as a common example. They go through three team projects during the term, and by the end of the 8 weeks, have often developed lasting relationships with the others they have worked with.
Teamwork is a difficult concept to teach and to learn in an online course. Many different technologies are presented so students have multiple options for how they interact as a team. Many choose to use Skype to have virtual meetings, some teams use phone calls and texts as the way to interact. Others use Google docs so that everyone can work on the assignment and make changes, post comments and update revisions in real time. All teams are asked to use the chat feature in the Learning Management System at least once for each project so the chats can be reviewed by the instructor to assess interaction and team dynamics.
Assessment of the teamwork of the groups is about more than simply the assignment produced. Teams are asked to rate themselves and the other members on four items, scoring each person from 1 – 25 for each with a total of 100 points available. The four components:
- Contribution to group goals: Consistently and actively works towards group goals: willingly accepts and fulfills individual role within group. (1-25);
- Consideration of Others: Shows sensitivity to the feelings and learning needs of others; values the knowledge, opinion, and skills of all group members and encourages their contribution. (1-25);
- Contribution of knowledge: Consistently and actively contributes knowledge, opinions, and skills without prompting or reminding. (1-25);
- Working and sharing with others: Helps the group identify necessary changes and encourages group action for change; always does the assigned work without having to be reminded. (1-25).
Team members ratings of one another are taken into account when determining the component of the grade for each project related to working as a team. Having assessed each member on the same four components using the chat, the instructor averages the peers’ ratings and uses those with his or her own assessment to determine the grade.
A second method of assessment by peers is also being considered so that more qualitative feedback may be obtained. On this measure, students are asked the following questions:List three strengths of your team
- List three strengths of your team
- List any challenges your team faced
- Did all team members do their part to make the project successful? Explain.
- Were there team members who did not do their part? If yes, please let me know who they were.
This format asks the students to think through their team experience more fully Coming from a strengths perspective, asking first for the positives of the overall team experience, and then the challenges faced helps the students to think through the dynamics they experienced.They each only do one from for each team project, and it is harder to use this format in grading because it is qualitative rather than quantitative.
Finding the best ways to assess teamwork is probably the biggest challenge since the instructor isn’t in attendance at every team meeting or interaction. Having the chat as one example of how the team functioned during the project helps to provide some insight into the dynamics of the team.
Deciding which way to assess the teamwork, qualitatively or quantitatively is another challenge. Possibly using both measures would provide the best and most robust data. If a self-reflection by each student was added, the three pieces would triangulate, giving a fuller picture of each persona participation.
Students need to learn the skills of teamwork to be able to function effectively in just about any career they might pursue. So even though it is difficult to articulate, role model, and assess, it is a set of skills that will prove to be quite valuable to them later in life.