3. Setting up and working with teams of students
In this chapter, we discuss the question of how teams should be built as well as team processes and coaching.
Cooperative learning has been shown to have positive effects on high quality learning; however, simply putting students in teams is not sufficient. The teacher needs to take factors such as student diversity, inter-disciplinary differences and students’ previous knowledge and experience in teamwork into consideration. In fact, if the teacher does not take steps to assure that the groups develop into high-performance teams, the experience might even be disastrous.
In order for student teamwork to be efficient, teachers need to plan for how the students are to learn the skills required. It does not happen automatically.
It is essential that the teacher:
- Introduce teamwork by explaining what is required to succeed e.g. to value team members unique competencies.
- Plan for teamwork outside of class in the schedule.
- Form the teams and make sure they are heterogeneous in competencies and of an appropriate size in relation to the assignment.
- Establish the policies that will govern the teams operations and encourage the team members to formulate their expectations on each other, including what to do when a conflict occurs.
- Make sure that teamwork is continuously evaluated when it comes to progress and functioning.
- Plan for how to deal with interpersonal conflicts in teams when they develop.
- Is explicit regarding when and how the teacher can be contacted if something needs to be sorted out.
To support learning on teamwork skills, there are a number of tools on the market, e.g. the test Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (21), aiming at increasing understanding of different roles and personality types in teams. MBTI has been used at KTH as well as at Aalborg University (13). Another commonly used tool is the team role test 'Belbin’s team roles' (22).