From massive, multi-faceted media collectives to small group success, teamwork was the topic in focus at the recent First and Further Year Experience (FFYE) forum. Sharing insights from student leaders and several different faculties at UTS, the online event highlighted research and practice on ways to build trust, relationships and team cohesion by addressing the socio-emotional side of collaboration.

Read on for edited highlights from the session, and further resources from the Animal Logic Academy, FEIT, HELPS and TD School.

Student perspectives on teamwork

As part of the conversation, a student panel shared their experiences of teamwork from various perspectives and disciplines, including the faculties of Law, Science, DAB and FEIT. The students included U:PASS Leaders who facilitate subject learning and team building activities with other students, and HELPS Peer Advisers who provide drop-in assignment help for students, among other support.

Asked about what makes ‘team magic’, the students were agreed on several things: trust, cooperation, and synergy were high on the list, as well as communication, which should be positive and ongoing. They noted that challenges in miscommunication were common in teamwork – particularly when it came to setting clear expectations and ensuring contributions were equitable across a group.

The students make several recommendations, including clarifying processes and roles for teamwork, and the need for external guidance and leadership (eg. not leaving groups of students to work everything out for themselves). At the same time, they asked for more choice and ‘agency’ to be given in teamwork, with opportunities to form authentic connections and community, not just functional outcomes.

Fore more on this topics, find out 4 ways that HELPS builds confidence for student teamwork from HELPS‘s Georgina Barratt-See and Sang-Eun Oh.

Transdisciplinary collaboration: problems to possibilities

We heard examples of teamwork in practice from a number of speakers throughout the session, including Jacqui Melvold and Lucy Allen from TD School. In particular, they shared strategies from the ‘Problems to Possibilities‘ subject in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII). Students are asked to solve an industry, government or community problem in the subject in transdisciplinary (TD) teams, which brings additional challenges to teamwork due to ideological, value or opinion differences which can hinder collaboration.

Jacqui and Lucy shared several frameworks used in the program, including the infamous ‘groan zone‘ at the centre of Kaner’s Diamond Model of Participation, shown in the image below:

Collaboration: From groan zone to growth zone – Integration ...
Adaptation of Kaner’s Diamond Model of Participation, as found in his bookFacilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making.’ Credit: Carrie Kappel.

The ‘groan zone’ can be a particularly frustrating time during a collaborative idea development process, where ideas are messiest and processes can be disorientating. Building comfort around this uncertainty through individual and shared reflective techniques such as the ‘Stuck Manifesto’ are helpful, as well as tangible supports like their ‘Teamwork Survival Kit’, a collation of individual user manuals into a collaborative team charter and a live document that is iterated on daily during intensive collaborative learning.

Explore more insights and practical exercises from the TD School on student agency and teamwork and empowering students in moments of ‘stuck‘.

Recordings of the event

Couldn’t attend or want to have a repeat experience of one of the presentations or panels? Here’s a recording of the full event, chunked into ten videos:

Resources by other speakers at the FFYE Forum

Further learning

  • Student Agency and Teamwork, a subject in the revised GCHETL course, will help you create teamwork activities and assessments that are inclusive, purposeful and exploratory
  • The Group work and student collaboration collection has recently been updated with resources to form and monitor groups for effective teamwork

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