Instructors play a critical role in monitoring the progress of student teams. However, student teams must develop the ability to monitor and improve their progress, because team members will need self-monitoring skills when they function on teams after graduation. Since self-monitoring is important for effective team operation, students should have some experience in this task. To provide experience, they will need training and opportunities to develop these skills, just like other team skills. The following are points for instructors to consider as they help students develop self-monitoring skills:
Code of Cooperation Felder and Brent6 suggest that instructors ask teams to prepare and agree to a “contract” on team behavior at the beginning of the semester. Then, teams may periodically evaluate themselves against this contract. Alternatively, they can use a standard code of cooperation7 that each team would prepare at the beginning of the term.
Approaches Instructors might provide self-monitoring surveys with specific inquiries and preselected responses (e.g., “Our team is working effectively. Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly disagree”). Alternatively, instructors might prepare a monitoring tool consisting of open-ended questions in which students are asked to identify any difficulties, specific strategies that are working or not working, and approaches for improving their effort. Finally, they can use a guided evaluation of some team product (e.g., a homework assignment or a preliminary report for an extended project). Whether an instructor uses a structured self-monitoring tool, a tool with open-ended questions, or guided evaluation of a team product, the instructor should ask student teams to monitor their progress at specific times during an extended project. Self-monitoring events might coincide with selected milestones.
Reporting Assessment Results With all self-monitoring tools, students need to turn in something so that they take the evaluations seriously and the instructor has material to evaluate. The submitted material may just be the form used in working through their guided evaluation, or it may be a brief, but more formal, report of the highlights of their self-evaluation.
Motivation Getting students to take self-monitoring seriously may be difficult. Faculty members can increase the value that students attach to self-monitoring processes in two ways. First, they can reinforce the value of learning to work and learn in teams as a set of skills required after graduation. Then, they might point out the value of self-monitoring as an important team skill. Faculty members can also demonstrate the value that they attach to self-monitoring by connecting assessment of self-monitoring activities to the course structure, grading policy, etc. Also, refer to the previous paragraph on the importance of having students submit some record of their self-monitoring activities.
Providing Adequate Tools/Knowledge Faculty members need to provide enough information/knowledge about teams for the students to be able to accurately self monitor. Faculty can provide information and tools at the beginning of the course, as they help students get their teams off to a good start. They can also provide information and tools during the brief, periodic team-training activities, as well as opportunities to practice self-monitoring and group processing during class. Specific examples of effective and ineffective team behaviors are some of the most important information that a faculty member might provide. To generate an initial list of specific behaviors, faculty members can often ask teams to offer examples of both effective and ineffective team behaviors.9