PS 64-50
Creating, using, and assessing student research teams

Thursday, August 13, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Background/Question/Methods: Although many biology classes and labs make use of student teams, instructors often struggle with how to best form these teams, how to help student teams be effective, and how to assess student teamwork. Further, many students resist working in teams and report learning less when in a team than when working individually. I made three changes to my Introductory Organismal Biology course to increase student learning when working in research teams. First, I included an explicit learning objective regarding teamwork. Second, I designed and implemented a series of exercises that teach students why they should work in a student team and how to be part of an effective team. Third, I made use of freely-available online software that helps instructors to use self-chosen and evidence-based criteria to deliberately create student teams and formally assess team functioning throughout the semester (Team-maker/CATME).

Results/Conclusions: My learning objective related to teamwork was for students to excel at effective and cooperative teamwork; examples: team building, communication and leadership. After using Team-maker to develop teams using best-practices, I worked with the students in the classroom by including mini-lectures about the “how’s” and “why’s” of team science; student group-work to develop team shared expectation, norms of behavior, and team culture; and both personal and team reflections. Students also completed two online formal team assessments over the course of the semester. As a result of these interventions, I have experienced dramatically improved student satisfaction and success in my course, as well reduced instructor guesswork and stress regarding student teams.