Constructing a Code of Cooperation
Behavioral Expectations for Each Other
1. What is a code of cooperation?
A code of cooperation for a team is a set of standards that is developed by that team. These norms describe expected behavior for individual members and for the team as a whole. A code of cooperation may include expected penalties for failure to adhere to the norms. If a team is experiencing problems, the team (or the team and a facilitator) may refer to the code of cooperation for guidance in resolving problems.
2. Why is a code of cooperation important?
In a class in which significant amounts of work will be done in teams, each team may lack a set of norms for expected behavior. Each member of the team has expectations for behavior. However, another member of the team will have different expectations. Unless these individual expectations are communicated and the team develops a code of cooperation, problems may develop because one member may unknowingly fail to fulfill expectations of other members. The expectations of each member must be made explicit, and the team must work through the exercise of building a code of cooperation from these individual expectations.
Also, if team conflicts escalate to the point at which they require the instructor to serve as a facilitator, the instructor can refer to the team's code of cooperation when working with the team.
3. How might you help your teams create a code of cooperation?
The ability of a team to develop a code of cooperation that will help them to resolve conflicts later depends on the maturity of the students, the amount of prior team experience, and the mechanisms that instructors have established for grading team assignments. Suggestions to instructors depend on these factors.
The code of cooperation must reflect each team’s expectations of its members. Instructors may not want to not start by showing teams examples of other codes of cooperation prior to the exercise in which teams develop a code of cooperation. The experience of several instructors is that students return the examples to the instructor in a relatively unmodified form without going through the hard work of developing a code of cooperation for their team and their situation. However, once students begin to construct their own code of cooperation, showing them segments of other codes of cooperation that have been developed may be helpful. For an extended example of developing a code of cooperation, please refer to Developing a Code of Cooperation, another document in this series.
One challenge is the degree to which students take the task of establishing a code of cooperation seriously. Instructors of first-year students have noted that the initial version of a code of cooperation is quite idealistic. They sound nice, but the students don't really expect problems to arise. Instructors recognize the value of iteration in engineering design, and iteration has similar value in developing a code of cooperation. After the teams have been functioning for several weeks, encourage them to revise their codes of cooperation to reflect what they have learned after working together. Instructors tend to notice that later versions contain explicit rewards for good performance and penalties for failure to meet specific expectations.