Blog 75

October 2017 Journal Club Blog

Yelin Su, Teaching Commons

In October, the Teaching Commons hosted the October meeting of the Journal Club discussing Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams. This article by Barbara Oakley et al. provides practical guides to instructors on designing and managing student team work in higher education.

It has been widely accepted that having effective small group teamwork could lead to deeper learning, better knowledge retention and transfer, higher student achievement, and even higher student retention. Currently, assigning collaborative teamwork is a commonly applied teaching strategy in higher education classroom. However, just having collaborative teamwork in the course does not necessarily lead to better student learning. Having Ineffective and dysfunction teamwork is detrimental to student learning. Effective teamwork requires both careful design and guidance of the course directors and team work skills that students may not have. Despite theories and course instructors’ good intention, it is not uncommon to have project management, time management, communication, and interpersonal problems and conflicts when students work together. Unfortunately, it is difficult for students to deal with these issues on their own while instructors have very limited time to guide students in their team work and/or might not even know how to do it in an efficient and effective manner. This article provides detailed and practical instructors’ guide on how to facilitate and manage student team work in class based on authors’ own classroom experience. It offers suggestions, recommendations, timelines, and templates on

  • Team formation
  • Conversations and instructions to initiate effective team work: establish expectations and instructions on effective team practices
  • Strategies on dealing with problem team members
  • How to use peer ratings
  • Frequently asked questions

This article is a good informative and practice resource for any course instructors who wants to have a first try on assigning collaborative team work and those who want to change and improve their practices or seek for advices on using team work in their teaching. In our journal club discussion, we had an engaging and productive discussion and shared our own experiences on facilitating student team work. Our discussion focused on a few strategies mentioned in the article:

  • Suggested team size
  • Mix students with different abilities in the team
  • Dissolve and reform student teams after 4-6 weeks
  • Two approaches to adjust student grade based on their teamwork performance.

If you are interested in effective student team work, this article is highly recommended. Apart from the practical strategies, the authors also shared forms, policies, agreement, evaluation forms, and reading materials that they use successfully in their classes that you can easily adapt to your needs.





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