Good practice: Share with students the purpose and benefits of their team project.
Manage student expectations for their team project.
How you introduce the team project to your students can affect their attitude towards the project. Some students may feel ambivalent or even have a negative reaction when the instructor announces a team project. Oftentimes, this is because they have had a prior negative experience with a team project or because they don’t fully understand the purpose of the current project, or they aren't sure how the project will benefit them in now or later. Understanding the causes of student resistance to teamwork helps us to address concerns and lay a foundation from which learners can to invest emotionally and academically in the project.
- Tell students on the first day of class (or before class) that they will be working on a team project. Include this information in the course syllabus. A syllabus statement is one way to do this.
- Elicit student attitudes towards teamwork on the first day of class. You could ask them about their previous experiences in teamwork have been, both good and bad. This can take the form of an online or paper survey, small group discussions, or a whole class discussion. Be sure to ask students to share specific examples of the good and bad, and to suggest what they would change to convert something bad to something better. Collect and display the information you receive and use this to facilitate a conversation about what they would like from their fellow students and the instructor to ensure that their project will be successful.
- Be transparent. Ensure that you and your students share an understanding of what effective teamwork looks like and show them how the project fits into your course learning outcomes. It is also helpful to be transparent about the assignment's purpose, intended audience, and the tasks they will be required to complete along the way.
Inform students why you are having them work in teams.
Some students may view team projects as busy work because they don’t see the point of it, especially if they feel as though they could do the entire project by themselves. To counter this, share with students why you are having them work in teams. Here are some reasons to share with your students.
- A team is able to complete a more complex project than any individual student.
- Employers are looking for college graduates who are able to work in teams. Their group work experience in your class will help them develop their teamwork skills. [see 2015 AACU report below].
- Teamwork takes place in your discipline; professionals in your field must work in teams. Tell students that you are providing them with an experience that simulates professional practice.
- Teamwork skills are part of the University's student development outcomes. Learn more here.
- Many students state that positive teamwork experiences enhance their enjoyment of a course.
A final way to build student commitment to the team project is to get them excited about it. There a few ways in which this could be done.
- Showcase excellent work from past student projects. This can pique students’ interest as well as inspire them.
- Build in an element or two of choice. Consider allowing students to choose the audience for their project or the form of the final product.
- Have previous students comment on their experience working with their team on this project. This could be conveyed live with a question and answer session or via video by Flipgrid.
- Example of syllabus statement about working in teams
- Activities to “sell” cooperative learning to your students
- 2015 AACU report on the skills employers are looking for in college graduates.
- Teamwork and student development outcomes
Seidel, S.B., Tanner, K. D. What if students revolt? Considering student resistance: Origins, options, and opportunities for investigation.CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12, 586 - 595 (2013).