A Gamer’s Guide to Winning at College through Team Learning
- Written by Brent Duncan, PhD
"Approaching the classroom like a game can make learning fun while helping us to become stronger and smarter by building relationships and developing skills for success at school, work, and family."
Summary. Adapted from Assessing the viability of team learning with remedial students in a lecture-based Japanese higher education culture (Duncan, 2013) this is a guide for students participating in the Team Hachi Project, a series of workshops developed to introduce team learning as a practice for improving remedial student performance at a Japanese university. Called the Team Hachi Method, this integration of small group learning models and practices offers a framework that students and faculty can adapt to build dynamic learning systems that engage individuals in mutual growth by approaching group learning as a game, improving student satisfaction through enhanced performance.
- To understand how teamwork can improve performance and satisfaction at school
- To understand how to be a productive member of a learning team
- To learn the three keys to success in Team Learning
- To consider applications of Team Learning for success at school and work
(C) 2019 by Brent Duncan, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
School can be difficult and boring, especially if we do little more than for tests. Do you ever wish that school could be more fun, like when you play games with friends? The interesting thing about playing games with others is that, in addition to having fun, we become stronger and smarter as individuals, we build better relationships with others, and we develop the discipline that will help us become more successful in school, at work, and in society.
Why can’t school be more like that?
This is a key question we will consider as we explore how teamwork can increase our performance and satisfaction in college, while helping us to develop collaboration skills that can help us to be more successful in our relationships with others, at work, and in society. During this workshop, we will learn the rules of Team Learning. Team Learning is a strategy for integrating teamwork with schoolwork. If you are used to sitting in lectures and preparing for tests, Team Learning may seem very unusual. However, if you have the experience of playing on a team to accomplish shared goals, you will quickly understand the power of teamwork for making learning a fun and enriching experience.
Learning with a team can increase your understanding of course concepts by helping you to apply what you are learning to solve problems that you face at school and work. The typical college classroom is lecture-based, meaning that students listen to lectures and prepare for tests. In comparison, students in a team-based classroom spend the semester working with other students to learn, solve problems, make decisions, and accomplish shared goals. To understand why learning to collaborate with others in the classroom is important to ask yourself the following question:
After I graduate, will my job involve listening to lectures to prepare for tests or will it involve working with others to solve problems, make decisions, and accomplish goals?
Your answer will help you understand why it is important to spend some of your college experience learning how to develop skills for successful collaboration.
The Team Players: Individual, Team, and Class
A typical organization has three layers of human interaction: individual, group, and organization (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2007). During these workshops, we will build a learning organization that consists of individuals, teams, and the classroom [See Image 1]. To be successful, individuals must prepare for and contribute to team activities. In turn, the teams must encourage and develop their members. Likewise, each team will contribute to developing the class, and the class will contribute to developing the teams and the individuals in the class. In other words, to become a successful learning organization, individuals must accept responsibility for developing themselves and others, and groups must accept responsibility for developing their members.
The dynamic interaction among individuals and groups within the classroom will help us to learn, grow, and have fun. As with all group processes, this will not always easy, but learning and performing with others can be more enriching than when we try to learn alone.
Image 1. Effective teamwork in the classroom is a result of a complex interaction among individuals and teams within the classroom
The Team Learning Game Board
To enhance performance and satisfaction at the individual, team, and classroom level, we will use a game metaphor to guide our activities. The game will involve four key steps in each workshop: (1) Preparation, (2) Readiness Assessment Process, (3) In-class Collaboration, and (4) Reflection [See Table 1] (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002).
Table 1. The Team Learning Game Board
Step 1: Preparation
You will prepare for each workshop by reading the workshop materials. Make sure you read the materials carefully. The activities during the workshop will be based on your readings. The better you prepare, the more you will be able to contribute to your team and classroom activities during the workshop.
Step 2: Readiness Assessment Process
The purpose of the Readiness Assessment Process is to help you and your team members to build the knowledge that you will use to solve problems in Step 3, In-class Collaboration. The Readiness Assessment Process consists of three steps, (1) Individual Readiness Quiz (iQuiz), (2) Team Readiness Quiz (tQuiz), and (3) Class Readiness Exchange. (hanashiai, giron [discussion]
Individual Quiz (iQuiz)
Individual accountability is a basic characteristic of successful teams. To help individual students prepare for participating in teamwork, each student will take an individual Readiness Assessment Quiz (iQuiz) at the start of every workshop. The iQuiz measures your comprehension of the workshop readings. You may also notice that the quiz helps to deepen your understanding of the workshop material. This will help you better prepare to participate in team and class activities. The points for the iQuiz will be as follows:
- Each quiz will have 10 multiple-choice questions related to the workshop readings.
- Each correct answer will earn four points; each quiz is worth up to 40 points.
- Your score for the iQuiz will be added to your total individual score and to your team’s total score.
- Only you will know your personal score. However, it is important to understand that your preparation for each workshop will benefit you and your team.
Team Quiz (tQuiz)
Following the iQuiz, you will join with a group of other students to take a team Readiness Assessment Quiz (tQuiz), as follows:
- Converse [Not discuss [giron]; too formal]. As a team, you will talk about each question on the tQuiz to build a consensus about the correct answers. Each team member should participate in the conversation.
- Answer. Once you have developed a consensus, your team will mark its answer by scratching the coating on the answer sheet [See “Scoring the tQuiz].
- Tally. When you have answered all of the questions, tally your score on the IF-AT form and turn it into the instructor [See “Scoring the tQuiz”].
Increasing individual and team effectiveness during tQuiz. To increase success for you and your team, make sure that you prepare by reading the workshop materials and fully participate in team conversations and activities. To enhance team effectiveness, individuals should put aside reserve, but demonstrate mutual respect. Your instructor will observe your group’s activities to assess the quality of your collaboration. During the tQuiz the teacher will evaluate each team member based on four variables:
- Did each individual contribute to the team conversation?
- Did the team contribute to the development of each individual during the conversations?
- What was the score the team earned on the tQuiz?
- What was the combined score of the team member iQuiz results?
Feedback and class conversation
Following the quizzes, the instructor will provide a short explanation of difficult concepts, and will answer questions that individuals and teams have about the content in the workshop reading materials. The combination of teamwork and classroom conversation will help enrich your understanding of the concepts necessary so you can fully participate in Step 3, In-Class Collaboration. This feedback will deliver a key benefit of teamwork: Even when we struggle as individuals, collaborating with our team members and classmates can help us to develop understanding and abilities that exceed those we develop on our own (Ancona & Chong, 1994).
Table 2. Scoring the tQuiz
Step 3: In-Class Collaboration
During Step 3, your team members will collaborate to develop a simple project that applies your new knowledge to answer a question or to solve a problem. The teams will then share their answers or solutions to the other teams in the class. For example, during the first workshop, you will do the following:
- Join a group of other students to form a team [the instructor will form the teams]
- Decide on a team name and mascot
- Identify shared goals
- Develop rules for successful teamwork
- Present your team to the rest of the class during a five-minute presentation
Do not worry, everyone will be nervous. But, by working together as a team and as a class, we will develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence we need to be successful at school and at work.
Step 4: Reflection
Learning from mistakes and building on success are keys to effective teamwork (University of Phoenix, 2004). This requires that individuals reflect on individual and team performance to identify areas for improvement. At the end of each workshop, the teams will spend a few minutes discussing how to build on their success and how to overcome challenges.
The team members will privately complete a Workshop Evaluation Form [See “Workshop Evaluation Form” in Appendix]. The Workshop Evaluation Form will help you to reflect on the performance and contributions of each team member. The form will also allow you to reflect on their own performance and satisfaction, and provide you with an opportunity to make suggestions for improving classroom activities.
Three Keys to Winning with Teamwork
Throughout the course, we will discuss three keys to winning with teamwork: (1) accountability at the individual, team and classroom level; (2) integration and reinforcement of learning and activities, and; (3) dynamic idea exchange through interaction [See Image 2] (Michaelsen, 1998).
Image 2: Keys to Enhancing Performance and Satisfaction through Teamwork
Key One: Accountability
Accountability is a key component of a successful team (Jex, 2002; Michaelsen, 1998). In sports, individuals who do not build their own skills or who do not show up to practice can cause the entire team to suffer. Likewise, failures to accept, acknowledge, and develop individual team members may diminish individual motivation and ability to contribute to team success.
Applying accountability to team learning in the classroom, students who fail to prepare for teamwork can become a drag to team success. Students who are prepared and motivated to perform may be forced to carry the workload of lazy students who do not prepare. Additionally, improperly managed team conversations are likely to degenerate into social events in which the team cannot accomplish tasks or achieve goals.
Effective teams avoid the problems of individual laziness and social loafing by (1) making individuals accountable for team performance, and (2) by making the teams accountable for individual development (Jex, 2002). In team learning, individuals become accountable by preparing for team activities and participating in team activities. Teams demonstrate accountability by providing individual team members with feedback and support. Members also enforce accountability through anonymous assessment during the reflection process at the end of each workshop (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002; University of Phoenix, 2004).
The Readiness Assurance Process is designed to promote individual accountability (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002). The Readiness Assurance process requires that individuals complete a multiple-choice quiz on the reading materials for the workshop. Students are individually accountable because the individual scores count toward the individual’s total points earned for the workshop. Next, during the team quiz, each member participates in conversations about each question to develop a team consensus about the correct answers.
These conversations generate immediate feedback that helps individual students adjust or strengthen their understanding of the materials. In addition, the conversations provide team members with evidence of an individual’s preparation. Members who are unprepared or who do not contribute receive a lower score from team members and faculty during the Reflection step.
Without team accountability, neither instructor nor students know: (1) if the students have achieved their learning goals or (2) if students are taking teamwork seriously (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002). Teams can foster accountability by developing practices that do the following:
- Encourage individuals to prepare for team activities
- Facilitate individual participation in team activities
- Help individuals feel comfortable contributing in team conversations and projects, and;
- Foster positive and productive communication
In addition to taking an active interest in creating an environment that fosters mutual development, your team should also recognize that contributing to the development of other teams could help your team members strengthen understanding and skills. Your team can be accountable for classroom development by demonstrating and applying learning from workshop concepts in your team projects. This will not only help to reinforce learning for everyone in the classroom; it will also help to show how different teams can use the same concepts to develop different solutions.
Key Two: Link goals and activities
The second key to effective teamwork is to link individual, team, and organizational goals (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002). We all share goals of academic, professional and life success. The workshop readings, assignments, and activities should help us to develop knowledge and skills for increasing success at school, at work, and in life.
By integrating our goals with team and classroom activities, we can (1) increase motivation by connecting classroom activities to real-world applications; (2) enhance learning through reinforcement, and (3) foster personal growth through mutual development. To enhance mutual development, individuals will read the same materials, teams will apply lessons from the readings to the same problems, and teams will present their solutions to the class during the same workshop.
Key Three: Stimulate idea exchange
Applying the same concepts to the same assignments will not only help us to reinforce learning, but it will also help us to see how different teams use the same concepts to develop different solutions to the same problem. Exchanging ideas at the individual, group, and classroom level will enhance creativity and enrich learning (Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2002).
Your success as a team depends on the contributions and success of your team members. The more individuals participate in the team activities, the more successful the team can be. You will see that the readings for each workshop may be challenging. However, you should also find that discussing the readings with others helps you to understand better. Similarly, you will see that the workshop activities are too challenging to complete by yourself. However, you also should find that working on the activities with your team makes it easier to accomplish your goals.
Successful teamwork will require that we put aside reserve and engage actively with your teams. Each individual should feel comfortable contributing ideas, asking questions, and proposing solutions. The more your team members exchange ideas, the more creative your solutions will become.
The introduction of “Gamer’s Guide to Winning at College through Teamwork” posed an important question for us to consider as we think beyond college to our relationships, careers, and lives:
After I graduate, will my life involve preparing for tests by listening to lectures or will it involve working with others to solve problems, make decisions, and accomplish goals?
Of course, the answer is that outside of college, we will not be sitting in lectures and we will not be taking tests. What we will be doing is applying our knowledge to solve problems while we collaborate with people at home, at work, and in society. This does not mean that lectures and tests lack value; lectures and tests serve an important purpose for helping us to acquire and demonstrate basic knowledge. However, when we think beyond college, we may recognize that we should spend some of our college life developing collaborative skills that will help us to be productive members of families, companies, and society.
In exploring how students learn in a team, “Gamer’s Guide to Winning through College” has provided a framework for helping us to win in life by being effective members and leaders of teams. This framework illuminated the complex interaction among individuals and teams within organizations. Awareness of these levels of social dynamics can illuminate barriers to team success and help us to develop strategies for fostering individual and group performance and satisfaction.
The collaborative process outlined in “Gamer’s Guide” can be as applicable in life as it is for helping us to accomplish our goals in the classroom. For example, as a team leader at work, you will want to select members who are ready, willing, and able to do their jobs [Step 1: Preparation]. You will likely have assessment processes through which you evaluate team member readiness to help accomplish group goals, like interviews and performance evaluations [Step 2: Readiness Assessment]. You will probably coach your team in collaborative skills that will allow them to more effectively accomplish goals and complete projects [Step 3: Collaboration]. Finally, whether things go right or wrong, your team will want to reflect on its successes and failures; this will help your team determine how it can improve future activities by learning from mistakes and building on successes [Step 4: Reflection].
Throughout these steps, you will also find that keys to fostering individual and team effectiveness include
- · establishing accountability at the individual, team, and organizational level;
- · integrating team objectives and goals with the personal goals of team members and the company, and;
- · fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas to encourage creative problem-solving.
In short, you may find that the secret to creating an effective work team is to make it a learning team like the one you will build in the classroom.
Ancona, D. G., & Chong, C. L. (1994). Entrainment: Cycles and synergy in organizational behavior. Working paper. Sloan School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Duncan, B. (2013). Assessing the viability of team learning with remedial students in a lecture-based Japanese higher education culture. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest LLC, Fielding Graduate University. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1352039981
Jex, S. M. (2002). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Michaelsen, L. K. (1998). Three keys to using learning groups effective. Teaching excellence: Toward the best in the academy, 9(5).
Michaelsen, L. K., Knight, A. B., & Fink, L. D. (2002). Team-based learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Schermerhorn, J. R., Hunt, J. G., & Osborn, R. N. (2007). Organizational Behavior (9th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
University of Phoenix. (2004). Learning team handbook. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Apollolibrary.com: http://www.apollolibrary.com/LTT/toolkit1.aspx?bc=1