If instructors rely on effective teaming in the learning process or on an extended project, then they have the responsibility to monitor team effectiveness. Early “check-ins” let students know that progress will be monitored and allow suggestions and redirection. Monitoring takes many forms: reviewing self-assessment surveys, evaluating progress reports or intermediate deliverables, grading occasional assignments or exercises, and reading journal entries. The following are some specific suggestions that an instructor might use:
Milestones and Intermediate Goals With extended projects, establishing milestones is very important. Milestones are intermediate goals that are associated with one or more specific deliverables. Milestones may be defined either by the instructor or by each team. However they are defined, milestones set priorities and provide benchmarks for measuring progress.
Submitted Work Have teams submit something: a homework assignment, in-class exercise result, self-assessment statement, progress report, or intermediate product. This not only provides a tangible item for evaluation but also makes the teams take the evaluation more seriously. Requiring them to submit a single product provides a better indication of the team’s effectiveness than individual products, and it reduces the grading effort for the instructor.
Team Training Although teambuilding is not directly related to monitoring progress, remember that students are still learning to work and learn in teams. Therefore, they need additional knowledge about effective teamwork, as well as opportunities to improve their skills. Therefore, instructors might periodically use a small amount of class time for some team training or evaluation to show that progress and team training are important.
Identifying “Hitchhikers” By monitoring teams early, instructors can identify hitchhikers and try to engage these students by letting them know that their grades will suffer unless they become participants. Carrying hitchhikers can demoralize teams, but knowing that the instructor is aware of the problem and will not give full credit to students who contribute little to the effort circumvents the problem.
Randomize Reporter Selection If a team activity leads to oral reports, then use random selection to choose responders at the last minute. Random selection can be done using a calculator, dice, cards, or by asking who was the last to eat at McDonald’s, go swimming, ride an airplane, or some such common experience.