A team is a small group of people
with complementary skills who are committed
to a common purpose, performance
goals, and approach for which
they hold themselves mutually accountable.
Although student teams may not satisfy all the requirements of the
definition, the degree to which they do often determines their effectiveness.
Getting Teams Off to a Good Start
Once teams have been formed, instructors need to provide the foundation
for success. “Students do not come to school with the social
skills they need to collaborate effectively with others. So teachers
need to teach the appropriate communication, leadership, trust,
decision making, and conflict management skills to students and
provide the motivation to use these skills in order for groups to
function effectively.” Faculty
must take responsibility to help students develop their skills to
participate in and lead teams. Investing time and effort
in helping teams establish goals, expectations for behavior, and
trust will pay off with more productive teams and fewer team problems.
Although an instructor can do many things to help the teams get
off to a good start, the following six are especially important.
acquainted: Taking time to learn about your teammates is a
groups to build teams: Establishing and maintaining
a high-performance team takes work. One way to help students invest
the energy and time it will take to form and sustain an effective
team is to help them better understand the importance of social,
interpersonal, and team skills for their career and lifelong goals.
a set of group goals: Strategic learners need to be able to
set and use meaningful goals to help them learn and to help them
generate and maintain their motivation for studying.
a code of cooperation: Every team member has expectations
about how the other members will perform. Helping each team articulate
individual expectations and reach consensus on a set of common
behavioral expectations yields positive results.
Conducting productive meetings and organizing group tasks are
skills that are learned, not innate. Further, certain tasks must
be performed for a team to function effectively. Assigning roles
to specific individuals can help the team operate more smoothly.
problem members: Reflection on potential difficulties and
how they might be addressed can avoid problems later. Once the
team has been started, instructors can provide additional team
training that will be described in other documents in this series.
References for Further Information
- Katzenbach, J.R., and Smith, D.K., 1992. Wisdom
of Teams: Boston (Harvard Business School Press).
- Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., and Holubec,
Edythe Johnson, 1986. Circles of Learning: Cooperation in
the Classroom (rev. ed.): Edina, MN (Interaction Book Co.),
- McKeachie, W.J., 1999. Teaching Tips: Strategies,
Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (10th
ed.): Boston (Houghton Mifflin).
- Welch, J.F., CEO, General Electric, 1993.
- Interpersonal Skills Laboratory [Online]. Available
from World Wide Web: <http://www.interpersonal-skills.com>.
- IEEE Careers, Skills in Demand [Online]. Available
from World Wide Web: <http://www.ieee.org/organizations/eab/PDI/pages/ind_overview_dir/skills_demand.htm>.
- Carnevale, A.P., Gainer, L.J., and Meltzer,
A.S., 1989. Workplace Basics: The Skills Employers Want: Alexandria,
VA (American Society for Training and Development). (ED 299 462)
- Brackin, Patricia, Department of Mechanical
Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, personal communication,
- Johnson, D.W., and Johnson, F.P., 2000. Chapter
3. In Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills
(7th ed.): Boston (Allyn and Bacon).
- Adler, M.J., 1983. How to Speak, How to
Listen: New York (Macmillan).
2001 Foundation Coalition. All rights reserved. Last modified