Active/Collaborative Learning Student Teams Integrating Technology Effectively Women and Minorities Assessment and Evaluation EC2000 Emerging Technology Foundation Coalition Curricula Concept Inventories
Getting Student Engineering Teams Off to a Good Start

Starting Teams
Get acquainted Motivate groups to build teams Establish a set of group goals
Construct a code of cooperation Organize Potential problem members

Getting Acquainted
Investing time in getting to know your teammates will pay off in the long run. There are a number of icebreakers you can use to get to know your fellow students. The best icebreakers call for participants to explain something about themselves, their likes and dislikes, their backgrounds. These can be fun and can be completed in class or through e-mail correspondence.

Example 1 One short and effective exercise is “Two Truths and a Lie,” in which students share with a group two truths and a lie about themselves. Someone in the group has to guess the lie.

Example 2 In another exercise, each member writes a characteristic about self on a slip of paper and puts it in a hat. Then, each member picks a slip and tries to match it with the right person.

Example 3 For the nonverbal birthday lineup, ask everyone to line up according to the month and day of birth with no talking. This inspires interesting means of communication toward a common goal.

Example 4 For silent identification, each participant is asked to silently write words or draw pictures that describe themselves. They pin these on their shirts, walk around, and look at each other. Descriptions are then shuffled, and participants are asked to match the person with the picture/words.

Example 5 What kind of team? Divide the team into groups of 4 to 6 people. Have each group discuss and identify an analogy for their team. For example: “We are like a three-ring circus—because we have many things going on at once and it feels chaotic at times.” Allow ten minutes to discuss; then have teams share.

These exercises help students appreciate different ideas and learn the preferences of others in their team or class. The idea is to learn more about the different students in your class.

Once students feel comfortable with each other, the next step is to earn the trust from one another. Working as a team requires each member to contribute. It requires team effort. A common set of characteristics that helps build trust include (1) following through on promises and completing tasks, (2) having open, productive, and frequent communication, (3) surfacing problems when they arise and not collecting bad or hurt feelings, and (4) avoiding cliques within groups.


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