Sharon Rendon, Coaching Coordinator
As the new school year begins, it is a great time to consider your plans for study team effectiveness. Students do not automatically know how to work collaboratively. They need opportunities to discuss what effective teams look like and sound like. Additionally, students need to know they will be held accountable for participating in their study teams productively. Intentional planning is a necessary component in getting your teams established and maintained.
First, carefully consider how you will teach and model for your students the characteristics of effective study teams. This could include using a jigsaw activity to teach the team roles. It might include creating “looks like” and “sounds like” posters highlighting the team norms. And it could also be accomplished with the STTS Fishbowl, where students observe a team while that team is working on a problem. Students can learn from observing both effective and not so effective teams in action.
Another component of successful teams is some type of accountability system. This may include many different parts, but items to contemplate include individual accountability, team interdependence, and celebration of successful teams. One idea is to use a random recorder/reporter system: have students work in teams to prepare their answers, and then randomly choose who from the team will report. Building team interdependence through participation quizzes, team tests, and homework credit are all great options.
Consider making any accountability system not a part of the grade, but a true opportunity to celebrate effective teams where your highest achieving teams receive some type of acknowledgment. When the time to switch teams arrives, be sure to have some type of recognition. This can vary from certificates, to a team “selfie” board, to a special lunch opportunity, to even something as simple as a hot chocolate party. Be creative and have fun.
Finally, remember to go slow to go fast. Investing the time now at the beginning of the year and planning to continually revisit team effectiveness will pay huge dividends in the end. Students will be the owners of their own learning, they will be more likely to persevere and solve problems, and they will be successful at working collaboratively in study teams.