An effective Team Project Group can be a valuable experience. Student are enriched by enhancing their teamwork skills and can find the experience rewarding. However, it seems for every successful team project group, there are as many which are dysfunctional in one way or another.
As harsh as this may sound, if a team project group is dysfunctional YOU as the Instructor may be to blame.
An effective team project group is a learning process which is guided by the Instructor. The establishment of the group and facilitating their ability to work together toward a goal is an aspect of the learning outcome for the course which is just as significant in many cases as the content being studied.
So, how do you take ownership for avoiding, as much as humanly possible, a dysfunctional project team?
Make sure you take the time in the first class session to establish the Team Project Charter. There is a good post on this HERE. Establishing the Charter is the starting point for a high performance team.
Take responsibility for facilitating the Team by providing a short period within each class period to meet with each team, working on the content AND the dynamics of teamwork.
Employ the tools available for effective teamwork outside of the classroom. This can be through Canvas (see post HERE in this Faculty Blog that explains how to do that) or through use of Google Docs (see post HERE in this Faculty Blog that explains how to do that) or some other resource. Your guidance and assistance here can make the difference in practical, pragmatic functioning of the team.
Finally, I encourage you to pray with and for your project teams and encourage them to pray for each other. Amazing things can happen when we remember to introduce the Holy Spirit into the team dynamic.
Karl McDonnell, Chief Executive Officer at Strayer, shared this post on Linked In and I thought you might find it interesting. I’ve only quoted a short excerpt from the original post. To read the entire post CLICK HERE.
The three authors behind a new book entitled “Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance” spent time studying this phenomenon and have come up with several solutions. They recently shared five pitfalls of teamwork with Quartz. You can click over to Quartz for the full post, but I want to highlight solutions to these pitfalls here. Here are five ways to maximize team performance: Read more . . .
Although I posted this link several months ago, I think now with the revised curriculum and the emphasis on collaborative learning activities I would bring it back. SWOT Analysis is one of the basic strategic planning tools used by businesses. There are a lot of great, short, videos on Youtube which describe what a SWOT analysis is and how to conduct the analysis. My favorite can be found at this LINK. The short video below incorporates the SWOT analysis into a classroom activity that promotes student involvement. It is not professionally created but I think you will get the message. I created the video using a free ipad app: bcontext
It can seem to be a little chaotic but this activity enhances student engagement and provides a wealth of opportunities for the Instructor to discuss the process as well as the subject of the SWOT analysis. I think if you try it you will find you will enjoy it. Save this activity for the latter part of your class period and allow an hour to 90 minutes depending on the size of the class. You will also need some large poster paper which you can get from the Dean at your campus and four markers. If you are doing this online, set up four collaborative pages in Canvas, one for each letter (SWOT) and have groups move through in rotation on four consecutive days. You can set up a separate discussion forum to debrief the experience or compile into a fifth collaborative page.
Case Studies have been a tried and true teaching methodology from the beginning of instruction. Every great teacher has used case studies to bring their students into contact with real life applications of the subject being discussed. Jesus used mini, or condensed, case studies for the same purpose. Dr. Paul Fritz from Trinity College has a great article on “How to Use Case Studies as Jesus Did” that I encourage you to read. The Bible itself is full of case studies on a variety of subjects, in fact The Good Book on Leadership is a book entirely devoted to case studies drawn from the Bible.
The graduate curriculum re-design has left space intentionally for collaborative activities to be used in the classroom. On the list of recommended activities is the use of Case Studies. However, finding a case study for use may not be easy. To that end, I’ve asked the wonderful people at our library to provide some easy to find FREE case studies which can be searched on a variety of topics for use in the classroom. They have provided me with this short tutorial which will guide you to resources available through the Belhaven University Library. I had to stop the tutorial at several points to make sure I could follow, as it auto-progresses through a presentation, but there is gold there if you follow the steps presented. Of course there are many other paid sources of case studies, such as the book I listed above. A search on Amazon or similar will turn up many options.
I’ve also gone ahead and prepared a Case Study Analysis model for your use in the classroom. This is merely to provide a resource to you in case you don’t already have a model for students to use in analyzing case studies. It is a simple model but should enable your students to get started in the right direction and open up opportunities for learning to take place. You can find it on the Faculty Resources tab of this Blog, under the White Papers: Case Study Analysis.
Using this collaborative time may feel a little chaotic at first, but if you have thought through your Collaborative Learning Strategy, I’m confident you will find that both you and the students will be stronger for the experiences. Check out other collaborative ideas at this site by clicking on the category Collaborative Teaching Ideas in the right navigation bar.
There are already some great posts on this blog about Team Projects and I encourage you to read through them by clicking on the category: Team Projects. What I want to do in this post is to summarize some of the key points made in the webinar: Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects which can be found under Faculty Resources.
Canvas has a rich environment for project teams, which they label “groups.” Before getting started, however, I highly recommend going to your personal settings within Canvas and take care of two tasks: First, make sure you have uploaded a picture and bio. Students should expect their Instructors to have completed this task and they can read through this information, enhancing your credibility. Second, go to settings and “Register” your Google Drive (gmail) account. This does not give Canvas access to your Google Drive documents, but it does facilitate your ability to set up collaborations with your students. Students should also be encouraged to register their Google Drive so that they can access the collaboration features available in Canvas.
Now that you have taken care of these housekeeping items. Here is a general checklist which will get you started in using Canvas to facilitate team projects. Let me strongly suggest you also watch the webinar as well for greater details.
Under the People navigation link, click on +Group Set and give it a name. Group Sets are basically types of groups, e.g. Project Teams. Think about the options listed there before you click on save. There are good reasons to choose one option or another and the video will help with that. If you don’t start the groups, then they will not be available to students. YOU ARE KEY TO MAKING THIS WORK.
If you chose to set up the groups manually, give each group its own name. You can set up as many groups as you like. Once the group is set up you can manually drag members into the groups or use the + by their name to select the group where you would like them. Setting up a group leader is as easy as clicking on the gear icon by a name and selecting “set as group leader.” This is usually a good idea as it gives the group better autonomy to move around within the site.
Once the groups are set up you can access the group’s page by clicking on the gear icon by the group name and selecting View Group Home Page. From here group members can post announcements, start discussions, store files, start collaborations, and conferences
Conferences can be created and left open ended, but remember to click on Start so the groups have access. This allows them to set up regular meeting times which you can join to see how they are progressing. Please consult the webinar video for more details.
Collaborations make use of Google docs, which is why you need to register your Google Drive. The Instructor should start one shared document within each group. This allows you, as owner of the document, to be able to easily see who is contributing and how the group is using this resource.
There is a lot more I could say, but if you watch the webinar you will get the hang of it pretty quickly. Experiment, practice, encourage your students to participate. I think you will find this breathing some new energy into the team projects.
The webinar: Using Google Docs in the Classroom was led today by Julien Marion. As with the last webinar, Julien did an outstanding job in sharing the tools freely available from Google and how they can be used in the classroom. His enthusiastic style and obvious passion for helping students came through strongly. Marion’s presentation style is engaging and approachable. He is obviously thoroughly familiar with the various Google products and gave examples of how he uses those products in the classes he teaches. I know those participating enjoyed the collaboration opportunities as there were many comments of of “cool.” Which, I suppose dates us a little.
I encourage you to watch the recording as well as the previous recording, located under Faculty Resources on the Faculty Blog. I’m confident you will learn something that you will be able to use in the classroom or for your personal life.
Many of the courses in the Adult Studies Programs for Belhaven University include a Team Project. The inclusion of the Team Project is valuable on many fronts: It provides the opportunity to learn to work together, maximizes group resources, allows for synergistic achievement, just to mention a few. It is also one of the most frustrating experiences for many students who complain about “freeloaders” who don’t do the work and either drag everyone’s grade down, or force others to carry the extra load, often without the Instructor noticing or seeming to care.
The best solution to this and one which falls in line with our goals and mission is the Team Project Charter. Unfortunately, it is often ignored because it takes time to work out and many Instructors and even team members fail to see the value, wanting to jump straight into the project. This is almost always a mistake leading inevitably to the complaints mentioned above.
The Team Project Charter is important because it outlines the basic expectations and is signed by each member of the team. The basic parts include:
Group goals and/or purpose.
Planned meeting time, place, and agenda.
Clearly understood attendance requirements and penalties for absences.
Discussion of responsibilities of members within teams.
Discussion plan for meetings.
Conflict management and resolution, penalties for constitutional covenant breaches, and plan for constitutional covenant changes.
When these items are spelled out it is much easier to pull the document back out at the beginning of a Team meeting and address any problems and the potential penalties for covenant breaches. It empowers teams to function smoothly and to stay focused, while avoiding freeloading.
If you haven’t wanted to take time for this in the past, I strongly encourage you to make time going forward. It will provide a better experience for the students, less frustration and grousing for you to deal with, and, more importantly, allows students to see how to deal with situations if a positive format that they can use in the future.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am seeing more and more use of infographics in the education arena. They actually remind me of poster presentations I’ve seen at various conferences. What I like about them is the way they pull information together and organize it for clarity. At this link (The Best Simple Tools to Create Infographics for Your Class) you can find an article about several programs which can be used to create an infographic. I’ve included a sample infographic below which I found at Google Images. The point of this, I think, is that it would be a creative project for a Project Team assignment with some interesting discussion being generated in data collection, design, and presentation as well as the classroom presentation/explanation/defense.
I’m seeing more and more of these infographics. I wonder if the creation of such an “infographic” might even be a worthwhile team project for some classes? Of course that would require some research on the part of the team . . . .
Most of us have at least heard about Google Docs but may have been too busy to explore this application or consider what it might offer to us or our students. A colleague, Julien Marion, and I discussed this last week while we were having lunch. I had used Google Docs only in a superficial way up to this point, but after our discussion I began to explore this application more fully. I discovered an amazing tool which not only allows real-time collaboration on papers and spreadsheets, but also tracks revisions so that Instructors can see who has made contributions. I’ve included a short video below which I found on YouTube. There are hundreds more on the same topic (i.e. “Using Google Docs for Collaboration”). I really encourage you to watch this short video and perhaps even show it in your class and encourage your project teams to give it a try. You could even reserve the computer lab and set up a real-time experiment with your class. If you decide to give this a try, I would be interested to hear how your experiment turned out, as well as how to make using Google Docs even more effective. There are likely many more ways you can think of to use this application; again, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org