Teams vs Groups
Teams and groups are fundamentally different. Teams should be formed with intention and work over a longer project; teams imply common goals, defined workflows, and structured interactions. Groups are for quick work and are created for immediate interactions, such as in-class small group work.
Strong communication practices are centered regardless of team or group formations.
Teams can be formed intentionally by the instructor for any number of reasons and with any number of criteria in mind. However, if instructors with to use team-formation software packages, two that are engineering-specific are available.
- CATME (Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness) is a paid program that will sort students into teams with a criteria chosen by the instructor/s. Within the paid service, CATME will also provide unlimited surveys to systematically gauge team effectiveness. This program is from Purdue Engineering Education and was created through an NSF grant.
- Groupeng is a free open-source program that will sort students into teams with criteria chosen by the instructor/s.
Example Documents and Downloads
These documents show possible assignments for student teams. They include annotations for instructors with additional information and considerations.
- Team Charter Assignment for Face to Face Teams (PDFor editable download).
- Team Charter Assignment for Remote/Asynch Teams (PDF or editable download).
- Team Action Plan (PDF or editable download). Supplement to the Team Charter, once teams are established and running.
Collaborative Editing in Teams (forthcoming)
- Calibration Editing for Documents
- Calibration Editing for Presentations
Resources for Teaching Teams with Pedagogical Intention
- Consider Joanna Wolfe’s book Team Writing. This slim book is great for all teams, even if they aren’t writing. It provides resources on team charters along with videos about team interactions.
- Many LinkedIn courses which can be good foundations. You may want to consider one by Lovelace. Use search terms “communication within teams lovelace” in Cornell’s free access to LinkedIn Learning.
- Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project may be a resource, too.
- The book International Virtual Teams: Engineering Global Success by Dr. Pamela Estes Brewer provides a plethora of strong practices for managing teams. Cornell’s Wiley subscription through the library is available for free.
- The book Effective Interpersonal and Team Communication Skills for Engineers by Clifford Whitcomb and Leslie Whitcomb is a good resource.
Team Cycle Example
1. Teams write a Charter (which can be renamed as a Workflow Document or the like). The Charter sets up baseline team expectations and workflows.
2. Teams create an Action Plan, which can be added onto the Charter/Workflow OR it can live separately in a Google Sheet, Asana, Trello, etc. The Action Plan is a detailed accounting of internal team deadlines, due dates, and which person or persons is tasked with each item.
3. Teams submit final work to the instructor for assessment/grading.
4. Teams and/or individuals do an assessment of the work cycle. This can be done by CATME, reflection pieces, or other methods.