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Team Projects

Why use team projects? 

group of 4 college studentsWhen students work in teams, they can develop a set of interpersonal skills that will benefit them in the workplace. And faculty know that when students work in teams, they can create more complex, authentic projects where students engage in higher level thinking skills, such as problem solving. Research has also shown that students working in cooperative teams to solve problems outperform individuals competing with each other. Team projects can also reduce the grading load at the end of the semester, allowing you to focus your efforts on providing quality, meaningful feeedback.

Benefits of group work

Toolkit for team projects

But my students hate them! 

Students have valid reasons for resisting team projects, but with careful planning, direct guidance and  monitoring, these problems can largely be avoided. 

Problem

The Procrastinators - their last minute efforts can seriously drag down the quality of the final product.

Best practices & strategies
  • Devise project stages with clear goals and due dates.
  • Teams create & submit ground rules, and a task-based timeline at the start of the project. 
  • Warn students about the most time-consuming stages and tasks.
  • Set check-in meetings in class or with Zoom, CSUSMs video conferencing software.
  • Require progress reports or draft submissions. The report can include reporting on group processes and dynamics.
  • Use an initial skills/strengths/weaknesses inventory prior to creating groups, to identify potential procrastinators.
  • Use peer evaluations during project or after 1st of multiple projects.
Problem

The Free Riders/Social Loafers - one person ends up doing most of the work.

Best practices & strategies
  • Ensure roles distribute the workload evenly.
  • Be proactive! Discuss pitfalls, coping with slackers, teamwork skills, metacognitive skills.
  • Design a project too complex for 1 person to complete.
    • Include individual and group assessments.
      • Individual assignments can include quizzes, journal entries, summaries, lesson’s learned
  • Have student’s self-evaluate their own contributions.
  • As a last ditch solution, dissolve and reform teams, or allow teams to “fire” a student
Problem

Scheduling out of class meetings is very difficult, due to different class schedules, work and family commitments. 

Best practices & strategies
  • Keep groups small – for in class short activities 2 or 3.  For longer-term projects,  4 to 5 maximum in most cases
  • Teams devise a meeting schedule in their contract/timeline
  • Provide some class time for team work - 30 minutes a week should suffice
  • Allow for “slack days”, where a student is excused from a meeting - but students must claim these days  in advance
  • Include the students availability when considering group formation. 
  • Provide/suggest digital tools for synchronous and asynchronous meetings
      • Zoom, Google drive, OuWiki, chat, forums, Lucidchart
Problem

The topic or project just isn't interesting or motivating  to the student.

Best practices & strategies
  • Design projects that are:
      • sufficiently difficult to pose a challenge, but not so difficult that the students become stressed or frustrated.
      • include authentic assessment - meaning that the project reproduces the ways and contexts in which the student would use their knowledge and skills in real-world situations within the discipline.
  • Include elements of the project that allow group members to make their own choices. For example:
      • students can  select  the topic area that interests them from within a set of topics you have defined, or propose their own. 
      • select their desired role
      • select the format of the final product - oral presentation, video, website, etc.  A list of free tools and apps for student projects is included in the section below . 
  • Give teams the opportunity to share or display their work.
      • Some strategies for displaying students' work include poster walks, portfolios, exhibitions, building websites or ezines. 
  • At the start of the project, ask students to set learning goals for the project. 
      • Examples could include: working better within a group, improving my writing or technology skills, being a better listener.

 

Toolkit Team ProjectsOriginally created by Kamara68 and uploaded to
Wikimedia Commons.  CC Share Alike 4.0.

Team Roles and Project Management forms

Group Work and Roles - includes role descriptions
Team assessment and peer assessments: examples from Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State
Sample project tools: Includes skills inventories, self, peer & group assessments, team contracts from the Carnegie Mellon U. Eberly Center.
Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams, Oakley, et al Journal of Student Centered Learning, V2, No 1, 2014.  Appendix includes sample forms for team policies, contracts, peer ratings,  team evaluation

Technology Resources

TEAMMATES – free online tool for managing student peer evaluations/feedback 
Google drive - for collaborative creation and editing of documents.  Note: students cougars email is a gmail account, so they do not need to create an account.
Zoom webconferencing- downloading and recording  
Free tools & Apps for Student Presentations and Projects  
Lucidchart - free online tool for creating mind maps, org. charts, flow charts, etc.

Cougar Courses Tool Guides

Groups

Setting up Groups and Groupings 
Group Self Select Activity

Team Communication Tools

You'll  want to provide your students with instructions on  how to use the tools.  You can set any of these activities to groups, so each team will have their own private communications.
Setting up forums  
OuWiki Chat - unlike the other tools, this activity occurs in  real-time. The chat can be saved for later review.

Peer Feedback/Evaluations 

Feedback Activity - to share their peer evaluations with students, you would need to do a bit of work - export the results to excel,  sort by student reviewed, then provide to the student 
Workshop - this is a very powerful peer assessment tool. You can set up a rubric or set of criteria and assign grades for both the student being assessed, and the assessor.  Evaluations can be anonymous.


Additional  Resources

Team-based Learning
Better Group Work Experiences Begin with how the Groups are Formed 
Using Group Projects Effectively 
Best practices for designing group projects 
Faculty Guide to Team Projects - U. of Minnesota