AuthorSeward, Mary Ann
TitleTeam Building Skills
MetadataShow full item record
Focus/Problem Statement: Educators generally view the classroom with a Euro-centered lens where linear teaching is employed, and students are expected to conform to predetermined standards of academic proficiency. I adhere to the new energy and vision where higher learning includes teaching excellence and learning-centered classrooms, so I offer a practical approach to student learning that includes the contributions of every race, ethnicity, religion, creed, and ability. My teaching methods include research findings on team building skills in order to transform the classroom into a productive team who can apply the principles of collaboration, quality circles, and qualitative decision-making. Teamwork in the classroom includes active learning engagements that require group projects that not only show students the value of free speech, but also promotes classroom civility, motivation, collaboration, and negotiation on division of labor, in order to meet learning outcomes.
Context: I am an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Vincennes University, and I teach public relations, small group decision-making, public speaking, and interpersonal communication, all of which require the teacher to empower students, foster inclusion, and support diversity. The onerous of fostering a positive team environment in the classroom increases the likelihood that students are able to meet targeted learning outcomes of the course and program. For example, in small group communication, learning outcomes include the understanding of roles, identify the problem, and collaborate to provide viable solutions to the problem. Some student outcomes in Public Relations include being able to identify corporate crises, evaluate the management of a corporate crisis, and provide effective solutions to ethically manage the corporate crisis based on public relations theories. Collaboration and team building skills are key factors in how successful students are in identifying problems and providing conflict management strategies to effectively handle corporate problem(s).
Approach: It is important to build students’ self-identity, accommodate special needs, and teach empowerment skills. In order to empower students, meet students’ needs, and help them to construct a positive self-identity my curriculum includes: a) student-centered teaching; b) collaborative learning with faculty feedback; and c) experiential learning activities. My teaching method serves students of various learning styles and enhances the student learning experience. I use grounded evidence in my teaching methods from the areas of measuring group efficacy, goal setting, and team performance in innovative projects (Hardin, Fuller, and Valacich, 2006 and Hoegl and Parboteeah, 2003). The first step in teaching students to be effective team collaborators is to encourage them to share their ideas, unique perspectives, culture capital, and generally social reciprocity follows. After trust is established, team members learn to rely on others’ contributions, begin to collaborate, follow through on commitments, and engage as productive participants in the division of labor, group decision-making process, peer review process, and the final culmination of the group presentation.
Reflection/Discussion: For two decades I have developed my skills in student-centered teaching, collaborative learning with feedback, and experiential learning engagements. What I have learned is that students want to share their ideas, dialogue, and banter about salient topics; after all that is kind of the point in Communication classrooms. I have found that group projects allow students to try out various roles, collaborate, negotiate perspectives, learn empowerment skills, and gain effective group presentation skills. The peer reviews of other students increase academic rigor and teach students how to provide constructive criticism, reminding them also to follow rubric criteria. I realize that students do not care how much I know, until they realize how much I care about their academic success. One way I show them how much I care is to guide them through the steps of collaboration and effective team building skills, encourage their voice in what matters, and praise them for their contributions. I can offer instructors who may have a little trouble inspiring unmotivated students some evidence-based research on classroom team building skills that may help them to develop a warm and welcoming learning environment, increase student motivation and engagement, in order to meet learning outcomes.
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