Aligning Instructional Objectives with Features of a Self-Contained Simulated Teamwork Activity for Teamwork Skill Development
This Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) project will develop a new approach to improving the teamwork skills among engineering students. Engineering graduates need strong teamwork skills to be productive members of the nation's technological workforce. However, developing teamwork skills is both difficult and time-consuming. This project will further develop a novel self-contained activity capable of improving teamwork skills among first-year engineering students. The activity is inexpensive, requires only a maximum of three hours class time, and can be prepared and graded quickly by instructors. Initial pilot testing shows that the activity is effective and increases intrinsic motivation of students. Effective teamwork skills such as task coordination and intra-team communication are improved. The array of activities pursued WILL result in students who, on average, have personally incorporated teamwork skills. Development of teamwork skills thorough efficient activities WILL result in habits of effective teamwork behavior. The methods are preferable to simply telling students how to work in teams which rarely results in lasting effects. This personalized experience WILL result in a longer-term retention of important teamwork skills. This project will clarify the effectiveness of this teamwork development activity and refine the program to ensure easy and effective implementation by other educators.
Typically, students do not retain strong misconceptions regarding what is defined as good teamwork, but rather are ill informed or lack experience on how to best approach a teamwork situation. A team at the South Dakota School of Mines has developed an interactive simulated teamwork exercise capable of improving teamwork skills from a constructivist point of view. As a simulated exercise, the fear of failure is lowered and the stress and impact of team discourse is eliminated. By engaging in the activity as intended, the students build upon their own knowledge base to reinforce and establish good teamwork practices. Important components to ensure the success of the constructivist approach are alignment, reflection, and feedback. If the activity does not align with the learning goals, either learning will not happen, or wrong concepts will be learned. Reflection reinforces what is learned for longer-term retention, while feedback on reflections reassures ideas generated by a constructivist approach are validated by an expert and are worth retaining. By triangulating reflections with quantitative assessments, the project team aims to show the effectiveness of this activity in a number of universities across the country and to show the adaptability and adoptability of this activity by other educators aiming to improve the teamwork skills of their students.