Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2010 [ Refereed papers ]|
Linda Riebe, Dean Roepen and Bruno Santarelli
Edith Cowan University
The 'Employability Skills Framework' developed by peak industry bodies, The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has identified that teamwork is a skill that is highly sought after by Australian employers. The ability to work in teams has also been identified as a significant graduate outcome of higher education. However, there are issues associated with engaging students in teamwork at university, for example: student perceptions of working in teams; free-riding; and, valid assessment of both process and product aspects. This paper shares some insights into some problems of teaching teamwork skills, as well as some solutions, from both the literature and the authors' personal experiences. Tuckman's model of group development is used to identify how teamwork skills might be better facilitated to positively engage students in teamwork, so that they are more than just surviving an assignment, but learning skills they can sustain and transfer to the workplace.
This paper examines the practices implemented in one Business Edge unit to address student perceptions of working in teams in order to effect positive change and sustain transferable teamwork skills.
Watson explains that in order to be an effective team member, students should "show an aptitude for many or at least some of these generic skills" (2002, p. 2). Therefore, in order to ensure that assessment of teamwork is valid, it is these generic skills that should make up the assessment criteria. It is important to note that these skills should not be simply assessed; they also need to be taught and made explicit. Palinscar, Anderson and David (1993) suggest that students will need significant support with developing skills, particularly with reflective practices such as evaluating a group's progress or overall performance.
I have a huge workload. Having to carry another two students doesn't help, not to mention that I don't get any credit for it and these students get to cruise through their degree on other students' work! (UTEI comment, 2009).Addressing this perception can be achieved in a number of ways. Kriflik and Mullan (2007) suggest offering team contracts where individual team member's grades are scaled according to contribution. Keyton and Beck (2008) posit that exposing values in establishing team processes from the outset supports the evaluation of the team and individual members. Scott-Ladd & Chan (2008, p. 244) suggest including peer evaluation feedback as part of the assessment process "so students knew they were accountable to their team" Pfaff & Huddleston (2003, p. 38) state that, "not including peer evaluation in the grade may adversely affect student attitudes to toward teamwork" and "a sense of fairness may prevail when students know they can provide input and create an impact on the grades of team members" (p. 40).
In the above example, assessment of the final product is based on criteria such as: academic standard of writing (correct conventions and application of standard Australian English; correct referencing); content (contemporary research of theory; vision for the organisation; scope of coverage); and, effective communication of information in the oral and written presentations (presentation skills; formatting; typography of slides; persuasion of arguments).
Teamwork processes are measured with both formative and summative forms of assessment. The summative assessment of teamwork process skills is evaluated through textual tracking of wikis and minutes of meetings. Criteria for assessment of these skills include: the development of mission statements and team norms which guide expectations about process; participation in project development on the team wiki to measure participation; and, the recording of minutes during each meeting to measure the team's ability to assign tasks, display time management and demonstrate individual accountability. Formative assessment occurs in the form of a midpoint evaluation survey where students are required to evaluate themselves, their peers and their team's overall performance. On individual completion of the survey, formative feedback is transmitted between team members based on process items such as the establishment of team norms; respect for diverse viewpoints; conflict management; the decision-making process; and, time management. Team members also evaluate one another on four criteria: cooperation; communication; preparation; and helping the group excel. Team members then give each other feedback on positive aspects of their teamwork behaviours and constructive criticism on any area requiring improvement. Peer feedback is also given to each team by another team on completion of the oral presentation component of the assessment.
The teaching of explicit skills is not a linear process; however, it can be aligned with the stages of team development in order for the teacher to facilitate timely delivery of theory and skills. The role of the facilitator is an important one in teaching team skills. Expert facilitation is more likely to elicit teams that "are more likely to become highly developed" (Bushe & Coetzer, 1977, p. 186). In this case the authors looked at the Tuckman model of group development in line with the generic skills teaching and learning process and students perceptions of the process.
Tuckman (1965) hypothesised that small group development progressed through a number of stages which were grounded in explicit generic skills teaching. He completed an extensive review of the relevant literature in order to propose four stages of group development which he labelled forming, storming, norming and performing. Tuckman further reviewed the 'new' literature on small group development in 1977. He concluded that a final 'termination' stage had been overlooked in his initial research and so amended the Tuckman model "to include a fifth stage: adjourning" (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977, p.426). Each stage was characterised by an attempt to distinguish between group structure (the interpersonal relationships and behaviours of group members) and group orientation to the task (the specific content of the task); however, he noted that these could both develop simultaneously. Working in teams within a higher education environment often requires students to complete problem-based tasks where they will move through all of these stages rapidly. Reaching the performing stage is imperative to the achievement of completion of the task.
What follows is one explanation of how teamwork skills are implemented within a Business Edge unit using Tuckman's model.
|Clarity of purpose is offered by facilitators:||According to Kriflik & Mullan, "clarifying the group work activity assisted students to perceive the benefits of the activity" (2007, p. 21).
The most important first step in engaging students in developing sustainable teamwork skills is to allow time in class for discussion of effective teamwork skills, theory and past experiences. The unit teaches Tuckman's (1965) teamwork model of forming, storming, conforming, performing and adjourning, as new teams need to understand the stages of team development.
The facilitator needs to be an enabler of learning through scaffolded introduction of knowledge of team processes and "must work consciously to help teams work productively by offering skills and reflection at strategic points in the semester" (Staggers et al., 2008 p. 476). This is done in the unit by scheduling checkpoints in assignments. Debriefing at certain points along the way is considered to be imperative to optimal functioning of teams.
|Team introductions and team building activities||These should be completed in class time. These activities can allow students to interact informally prior to commencement of the team project.|
|Goal setting||Brainstorming in new teams should be undertaken in class time to establish goals for the team and for explicitly clarifying each individual's grade aspiration.
A mission statement is then written using SMART objectives in order for team members to agree a clear purpose for the team's existence.
|Establishing ground rules||Decide on norms for the team:|
|Roles and responsibilities||Individuals may seek to wield power or take leadership rather than earn it. It is in the realm of the facilitator to provide constructive feedback and negotiate fluidity of roles across the life of the project.|
|Conflict management||Conflict management responses are explicitly taught to students in the unit prior to undertaking teamwork. Students develop awareness of the five main approaches to conflict management (forcing; accommodating; avoiding; compromising; collaborating), through theory and role-play.|
|Team competencies explicitly developed through in class activities in Business Edge|
|Attributes that can be seen in high performing teams include:|
|Reflection and peer evaluation||Facilitators explicitly debrief the skills and attributes associated with teamwork development in a whole class forum to ensure every individual is aware of their ability to transfer and sustain these skills and strategies to new teams, either at university or in the work place.
Peer evaluation as part of the team assessment process. This is seen as being a significant part of the process to students in the current literature (Ding & Ding, 2008; Fermelis & Tucker, 2008; Frederick, 2008; Kriflik & Mullan, 2007; Pfaff & Huddleston, 2003; Scott-Ladd & Chan, 2008).
Teamwork process evaluation. Students are given the opportunity to complete an end of semester teamwork survey. The survey allows students to rate skills learned on a five point Likert scale to evaluate their perceptions of the most effective skills necessary for teamwork.
Ten items were listed for rating the extent of positive student experience of teamwork processes in the second year unit.
Figure 1: Rating by students of positive aspects of teamwork during the second semester
The introduction of setting team norms was done for the first time and had a positive impact on the student experience. An extract from one reflective journal entry gives some insight to this process:
The questionnaire also assisted our group to come up with a set of norms in regards to work standards, communication and facilitation. This practice was particularly helpful, as it ensured that all of our team members were on the same track and shared some similar ideas.Finally, students were asked to comment on their journey through the team development process using the Tuckman model. There were 160 responses of which 132 (82.5%) were positive, 23 (14.5%) were negative and 5 (3%) with no comment. Students noted the following:
Forming is the first stage in establishing the team. We performed so good in this stage with areas such as introducing team members. We chose a place and time for group meetings. Each member talked about their expectations when working in a group. We agreed to choose a team leader and also identified goals for our group. All members agreed to finish the report as soon as possible.In addition to students commenting on team development through Tuckman's model, general comments also indicated a greater awareness of interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. Students commented on the skills which their team performed successfully and they also articulated the teamwork skills which required further development. The explicit teaching of teamwork skills and processes has effectively developed a greater level of awareness in students, which in turn, has ultimately contributed to the development of sustainable and transferable teamwork skills.
During the norming stage, there were some conflicts as some wouldn't turn up to meetings or communication was harsh. But during the performing stage, things went extremely well. In fact, encouragement and motivation was the tool that influenced our performance as a team.
Although our team work was not as efficient and effective as it could have been, the challenges that we faced were enlightening. The conflict that we were confronted with and the methods that we used to resolve this conflict gave us the experience for future team work situations.
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|Authors: Linda Riebe, Dean Roepen and Bruno Santarelli, Edith Cowan University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Riebe, L., Roepen, D. & Santarelli, B. (2010). Getting the teamwork edge: Sustaining skills for future employability. In Educating for sustainability. Proceedings of the 19th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 28-29 January 2010. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2010/refereed/riebe.html
Copyright 2010 Linda Riebe, Dean Roepen and Bruno Santarelli. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format, provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.