Teamwork plays a major role in meeting Team-Based Learning (TBL) learning outcomes. As such, designing and managing effective teams is an important foundation to put in place when applying TBL methods in any classroom. Diversity, student accountability and creating assignments that promote optimal team learning are some of the variables instructors should take into account while forming teams.
Here are some aspects to take note of when creating teams in your own classrooms.
1. Form permanent teams
Create permanent teams rather than changing them regularly as time is needed for teams to build trust, rapport and a working dynamic. Working over a period of time creates more cohesive and high performing teams.
2. Form teams with diversity in mind
It is important to incorporate students who possess different experiences, skills and backgrounds. Make sure students of different abilities and experience in the topic are grouped together to ensure no teams in the class are at an advantage or disadvantage compared to others. Apart from their educational experiences it is also recommended to represent students from different races, religions and genders in each team. Team formation is commonly done via surveys at the very beginning of the semester asking students their major, minor, their ethnicity, and also to rate their perceived comfort and talent in the topics in the course.
3. Earn student trust
Provide students with the rationale you used to form teams and the need for permanent teams. Inform students before assigning groups and be open to reconsidering team formations if there are serious complains. Earning student trust can help to reduce any resistance students might have to break out of their usual social circle and work in teams created by you.
4. Promote student accountability
Lack of preparation can affect both an individual’s performance and the group’s performance. Ensuring that enough of the grade is weighted on individual components of the course such as the IRAT will encourage students to prepare better for class instead of relying on team activities to score well in their course. Reducing the chances of free riding generally leads to students taking more ownership of their learning.
5. Assignments promoting teamwork
Assignments should facilitate team development and learning. Requiring teams to exercise decision-making based on complex theories learnt in your prework and RATs usually generate more interaction than having the teams work on assignments which involve producing lengthy reports. According to some studies, assignments that involve producing lengthy reports result in students spending more time delegating tasks than brainstorming as a team.
6. Conduct regular peer evaluation exercises
Conduct a mid-term and final peer evaluation to identify students who might not be contributing as much as their teammates. As such, after the first half of the semester you can assess the results of the mid-term peer evaluation and intervene when you see teams having trouble working together. In general, a benefit of peer evaluation is that it encourages individuals in the team to cooperate with each other so as to not negatively influence their own grades.