Teaching Team-effectiveness in Large Classes

First Year design classes at the University of Toronto range from 300 to 1000 students working on team projects. Given the size of these classes, creating a personalized learning experience for each student can be a significant challenge.

Led by PhD candidate Patricia Sheridan, this research project aims to enable each student to engage in personalized learning on their individual team-effectiveness. Patricia’s work involves the development of the Team-effectiveness Learning System (TELS). The TELS facilitates a customized, online learning experience that seeks to improve students’ team-effectiveness behaviours by accounting for their current competency levels. The TELS integrates with team-based courses to introduce students to effective teamwork through accompanying lectures and tutorial exercises.

The TELS combines lessons about how to work effectively in teams with a self- and peer-assessment instrument that allows students to gauge their current level of performance within their team. Students complete the instrument measuring their performance along three aspects of team-effectiveness. Based on their greatest assessed strengths and weaknesses, students are directed towards the lessons and exercises in the TELS that provide them the greatest opportunity for improvement. Students can track their development across different courses and teams through an online portfolio that stores their received feedback from different assessments, as well as their performance in the lessons and exercises.

This research project consists of three phases. Phase One involved analyzing how inventory-based and free form feedback affected students’ efforts to improve their behaviour in teams. Phase Two consisted of implementing our inventory in an online Team-effectiveness Learning System (TELS). The system combines students’ self- and peer-feedback with teamwork lessons and exercises. TELS has been successful in developing student and instructor awareness of, and support for, team learning. Phase Three involves following several teams through their first-year design course to determine how students leverage the behaviours in the inventory to make their teams effective or ineffective. The success of this project has been demonstrated by the integration of TELS in over 10 courses across the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and through the current commercialisation venture to bring TELS to other universities.

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council have funded this study. Commercialisation of TELS is supported by MaRS Innovation.

Find out more

We are looking to expand our impact by increasing the number of courses in which TELS is used. If you are interested in integrating the TELS and teamwork instruction into your course, please contact Patricia Sheridan at patricia.sheridan@utoronto.ca.