Team Skills

Don’t I need to teach students about team dynamics and team skills?

Surprisingly No. There is no need to teach teaming skills, instead TBL creates the right conditions for these skills to emerge.

You want to ask the right kinds of question in the right kind of way and this naturally leads to good group behaviours.


The power of permanent teams and natural development of team cohesion during the Readiness Assurance Process

When we use permanent teams and as cohesion builds students will find their social feet and begin see the value of participating and the possible negative consequences of not speaking up when they should. This cohesion starts to build in the very first RAP process with shared successes and shared failures….students can clearly seeing when a dominating line of discussion lead them down the wrong path and when a minority voice might not have been listened to enough….the team gets immediate feedback after every scratch to reconsider their approach…and the magic of this is the structure of the activity and the feedback loops created make this happen without teacher intervention…pretty neat!

The powerful, motivating feedback loop created in 4S activities

When we use the 4S framework a feedback loop, like the Readiness Assurance Process feedback loop, is automatically created.

When the team know they will need to publicly commit to a position and may have to defend their decisions,  it is very motivating to take activity seriously. It is nice to point out to students that talking isn’t the only way to contribute. When the team publicly commit to their position and then have to defend their decisions …they get immediate and focused feedback on the quality of their decision and decision making process. What is really great is this feedback extends to teams that may not even contribute to discussion…it could be pride in a job well done….or some more critical self-reflection that we didn’t make a very good decision..and have to do better next time.

Watch for team shape

If you are in a flat classroom with movable chairs…watch the shape of groups….a group with a dominator will often become a scraggly line with some quieter students left at end…if you see this…stop the discussion…ask everyone to shift 2 seats….and both you and the students often notice an immediate difference in the inclusivity of the conversation.

Teaching Team Dynamics has been tried – but wasn’t needed in eyes of students or teacher

The teaching of team dynamics has been tried with seeming little effect.

Larry Michaelsen (founder of TBL) recently related this story on the TBL listserve: “On two different occasions that were previous to my discovery of the IF-ATs, I’ve had a graduate assistant who, based on prior experience with and exposure to Cooperative Learning, wanted to try to improve the functioning of the teams by doing some team-skills training.  In both cases, we tried using a combination of “teaching” teamwork concepts and post-activity reflective discussions. Although students cooperated fully, we failed to see any evidence that the intervention did anything but use up valuable class time. In fact, after a couple of team training sessions, we started getting complaint that we were “beating a dead horse” and wanted to engage in what they thought was more meaningful learning activities.” 

Larry also went on to say:My conclusion is that there is NOTHING we can do to teach team skills that is more powerful than making sure that students get immediate PERFORMANCE feedback. If they know how they are doing, they will find a way to eliminate the things that are holding them back and increase the use of behaviors that are helping”

Final Thoughts

People are sometime astonished that in most TBL courses…Team dynamics is never talked about…ever

Ask the right question in the right way and stuff seems to fall into place.