CTL Guide to the Teamwork & Collaboration Hub Area

This guide reviews the importance of teamwork & collaboration for today’s workforce, explains the learning outcomes for the TWC Hub area, and provides guidance for designing assignments and activities.

Introduction

Collaboration defines the 21st-century workplace. Employers rely increasingly on teams—groups of people with different backgrounds and training who tackle projects jointly—and they identify the ability to collaborate with these diverse groups as an essential skill. Training in and the practical experience of teamwork teaches the process of innovation, develops leadership, and fosters knowledge of one’s own strengths and appreciation for those of others.

Learning outcomes

Courses and cocurricular activities in this area must have all outcomes.

  1. As a result of explicit training in teamwork and sustained experiences of collaborating with others, students will be able to identify the characteristics of a well-functioning team.
  2. Students will demonstrate an ability to use the tools and strategies of working successfully with a group or team. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • An ability to assign and undertake roles and responsibilities amongst members of a team.
    • An ability to give and receive feedback within their own team and to meaningfully process this and other feedback, such as from additional teams, from an instructor, and/or in self-reflection.
    • An ability to engage in meaningful group reflection that inspires collective ownership of results.

To learn more about the proposal process, start here.

Designing TWC assignments

For a comprehensive set of teaching tools, explore the Faculty Resources for Teamwork & Collaborative Learning, developed by Questrom’s Team Learning group.

Team formation

Teams can be formed randomly or intentionally by the instructor or students. Factors to consider when intentionally designing teams: students’ schedules (if they must collaborate outside of class); what skills groups need to be successful; and diversity (which may take the form of college major, race, gender, etc.).

Additionally, groups can be small or large, and they may persist for a short period or the entire semester.

If you, as the instructor, opt to form teams, you can visit this guide for team formation for additional resources. BU’s Blackboard Learning and other third-party apps such as iDoceo’s Teams app can also help with in-class management of activities. For help leveraging BU’s Blackboard Learning platform, please contact askedtech@bu.edu, or learn more on IS&T’s Blackboard Learn page.

Instructors can facilitate a team norming exercise in which students discuss the qualities of effective collaboration before getting into teams. This strategy can help students overcome skepticism or hesitation of team-based environments, as the modality may cause anxiety with introverted or shy students. One way to achieve this is by assigning students a case study about functional and dysfunctional teams and debrief as a class. You can also work with students to develop team ground rules, peer-feedback guidelines, and establish a team contract that is utilized throughout the semester. For examples, see Oakley et al. and the Harvard Business Review article under “Resources.”

Team assignments and activities

Consider using the 3-S model. Student teams address the “Same” problem, case, or question. Students can then make “Specific” choices about the problem by applying course concepts. Finally, students “Simultaneously” report their choices to the larger group which helps students synthesize and present while learning from the thought process of others.

Faculty can promote positive interdependence in their courses by ensuring that team projects are sufficiently complex so that students must draw upon one another’s knowledge and skills to complete the task, rather than allowing students to adopt a “divide and conquer” approach. Assigning roles within teams, and then rotating these roles periodically, also minimizes “social loafing,” or the phenomena where one or more students receive credit for other’s work.

Team progress reports/memos and activities

Team Progress Reports/Memos (examples here) help students track and reflect on their work, which helps students make their learning around TWC visible. 

To ensure both group and individual accountability, faculty can incorporate formal (graded) or informal (non-graded) self-evaluation and team building assignments.

Not only does incorporating peer and self assessment within teams help to mitigate problematic dynamics, but it also provides opportunities for frequent, timely, and targeted feedback so that groups make progress towards your learning objectives for the project and the course. See the Oakley et al. article under “Resources” for examples and templates.

Area-specific resources

References 

McLeod, P.L., S.A. Lobel, and T.H. Cox, Jr. 1996. Ethnic diversity and creativity in small groups. Small Group Research 27(2): 248-264.

Michaelsen, L. K., Knight, A. B., & Fink, L. D. (2004). Team-based learning: a transformative use of small groups in college teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub.

Nemeth, CJ. (1985). Dissent, group process, and creativity: the contribution of minority influence. In E. Lawler (Ed.), Advances in group processes 2: 57-75. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Oakley, B., R. M. Felder, R. Brent, & I. Elhajj (2004). Turning student groups into effective teamsJournal of Student-Centered Learning, 2(1), 9-34.