Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide - Instructor Companion

Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide - Instructor Companion

Andrew M. Clark and Justin T. Dellinger

Kathryn Beebe, Bonnie Boardman, Rebecca Garner, Ana Gregorio-Cano, and Erika Pribanic-Smith

Mavs Open Press




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Creation of this resource was supported by Mavs Open Press, operated by the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries (UTA Libraries). Mavs Open Press offers no-cost services for UTA faculty, staff, and students who wish to openly publish their scholarship. The Libraries’ program provides human and technological resources that empower our communities to publish new open access journals, to convert traditional print journals to open access publications, and to create or adapt open educational resources (OER). Our resources are openly licensed using Creative Commons licenses and are offered in various e-book formats free of charge, which can be downloaded from the Mavs Open Press OER catalog. Optional print copies of this text may be available through the UTA Bookstore or can be purchased directly from XanEdu, Mavs Open Press’ exclusive print provider and distributor.

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About This Project


Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide – Instructor Companion is the product of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and aligns with the goals of the university’s Maverick Advantage and Strategic Plan, along with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board TX 60×30 Initiative.

The purpose of the companion is to provide instructors with a resource in order to improve course outcomes when implementing teamwork and develop this in-demand, marketable skill that students can use in their careers. Both the student guide and companion are open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA) license for anyone to use.

Creation Process

The idea for this project originated September 2018 during a series of conversations between Andrew M. Clark and Justin T. Dellinger. Clark put together an advisory committee within a few weeks while Dellinger initiated the development process with Michelle Reed, Open Educational Resources (OER) Librarian. During this time, responsibilities were determined and within two months, the team generated a first draft. Clark shared this draft with Peer Academic Leaders (PALs), graduate and undergraduate students, the advisory committee, and the Division of Student Success, who all provided invaluable feedback that fundamentally influenced the final format of the guide. They all appreciated the practical nature and overall readability but suggested making the guide more visual and less like a formal textbook. After revisions, Clark and Dellinger shared the resource at two Professional Learning Community (PLC) events (also part of the QEP). They finalized a PDF version and then transitioned into Pressbooks with help of the Library’s OER team and then worked to finalize the instructor companion.

How to Approach the Student Guide and Instructor Companion

The student guide is meant to be used in a variety of ways. The editors purposefully implemented a modularized layout in the student guide to make it easier to use whichever sections are most useful or appropriate. While some may choose to read it front to back, others might just choose one section that helps them with a particular course. In addition to the general content, there are additional resources and testimonials, as well as assessments that can help individuals and groups evaluate themselves.

The companion provides resources for course instructors, including discussion prompts, sample activities and lesson plans, case studies for teamwork at UTA, and other practical resources.



Editors’ Note

We would like to thank the Office of Provost, the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence, Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab, Division of Student Success, Peer Academic Leaders (PALs), and Pressbooks team for their support and feedback on this resource.

Contributing Authors

Andrew M. Clark, QEP Director, Office of the Provost, and Associate Professor, Department of Communication
Justin T. Dellinger, Associate Director, Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab
Erika Pribanic-Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Communication

Advisory Committee

Bonnie Boardman, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Industrial, Manufacturing, & Systems Engineering)
Leah Collum, Assistant Director, Office of Graduate Studies
Lolin Martins-Crane, Director, Lockheed Martin Career Development Center
Mengqi (Monica) Zhan, Assistant Professor of Communication

Additional Thanks to…

Paulina Fonseca (Student Assistant, Division of Faculty Affairs) for creating such a rich visual experience in the guide
T. Lisa Berry (Director, Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab) for reviewing and providing feedback on the completed guide and companion
Kartik Mann (Open Educational Resources Publishing Student Assistant, UTA Libraries) for helping behind the scenes in Pressbooks
Michelle Reed (Director of Open Educational Resources, UTA Libraries) for her assistance through the development of this resource
All of the undergraduate and graduate students that provided feedback along the way



This section contains an introduction to the book, a description of data collection that will be used for the Quality Enhancement Plan and accreditation, and a survey that will help the project team improve both the student and companion guides.

Introduction to the Companion

This instructor companion is a resource for anyone using Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide in their courses, ranging from Peer Academic Leaders in first-year experience courses, to graduate teaching assistants, to experienced faculty. The companion is considered a living resource, where the authors will continue to update content each semester. Version history can be found at the end of book.

The structure of this resource is as follows:

We hope that you find this resource useful and appreciate any feedback for how we can make it even more so.

Quality Enhancement Plan Surveys and Reflection

The QEP is a central part of the university’s accreditation under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC). Section 7 of the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation states, “The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is an integral component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process and is derived from an institution’s ongoing comprehensive planning and evaluation processes. It reflects and affirms a commitment to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by focusing on an issue the institution considers important to improving student learning outcomes and/or student success” (SACSCOC, 2018, p. 58). Therefore, the QEP team will conduct research and assessments over the duration of the project. Assessments will take place in UNIV courses, coordinated by the Division of Student Success, as well as other courses taught by Professional Learning Community members or others at UTA. Pre- and post-surveys, along with reflections, will be the primary data collected and the QEP has sought to make the process as unobtrusive as possible. Beyond assessment, Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide and the efforts of Professional Learning Community members will help to improve the development and marketability of this sought-after skill, which employers consistently list as one of the core competencies that they seek from graduates and potential hires (Hart Research Associates, 2018).

The QEP team requests that any UTA instructor that uses the guide in their courses have their students complete these brief assessments. While not required, the data collected in these instruments are essential for understanding the short- and long-term impact of this guide. Please contact Dr. Andrew M. Clark, QEP Director, if you have any questions about the surveys and reflection.


2020 Pre-Survey QR CodeFor students that have not yet used the guide and are currently enrolled at UTA. Please use the QR code or click the image.




2020 Post-Survey QR CodeFor students that used the guide in a course or for personal growth during a semester. Please use the QR code or click the image.




2020 Reflection QR CodeFor students that used the guide in a course or for personal growth during a semester. Please use the QR code or click the image.



Here are the questions:

  1. What does effective teamwork look like to you?
  2. In what ways has your attitude toward teamwork changed as a result of what you have learned through this guide? If you do not believe it has changed please tell us why you think that is so.
  3. Based on the material in the guide, what are some ways that you will apply what you have learned about teamwork in the classroom?
  4. What are some ways that you will apply what you have learned about teamwork in your occupation?

Media Attributions

  • 2020 Pre-Survey QR Code
  • 2020 Post-Survey QR Code
  • 2020 Reflection QR Code

Instructor Use Survey

Please take a minute to share your experience with the editors.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


Considerations for Online Group/Teamwork

This section includes suggestions for how to effectively implement teamwork in an online course setting.

Considerations for Online Group/Teamwork

Group work in the online environment facilitates the building of peer networks and online community, which are noted aspects of a quality online course. In the following sections, we will discuss the benefits to using groups in online and blended courses, overcoming challenges to small group work, creating small groups, developing small group learning activities, and assessing group performance.

Why use groups in blended and online courses?

Challenges to online group work


Issues to consider in group creation, and forming and managing groups

Types of group learning activities promoting learning and team development

This content was adapted from Week 3 of Pivoting to Online Teaching: Research and Practitioner Perspectives and Module 2 of the Effective Online Teaching Short Course by J. T. Dellinger, and is used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. Modifications include adjusted text for UTA context.

Checklist: Developing Effective Small Group Learning Activities

Group activities should be engaging and focus on higher order learning

  1. What aspects of the content lend themselves to group activities?
  2. How can the activity utilize the many experiences of students into making a higher quality product than working individually?
  3. How can the activity allow students to work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning?
  4. How can the activity allow students to search for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product?
  5. How does the activity meet a course objective? Do your learning objectives for the course including working as a team? Working collaboratively?
  6. What are the goals of the group activity?
  7. Is the activity too challenging for an individual to complete?

Group activities should facilitate learning community

  1. How can the activity allow for group discussion and resolution (if possible)?
  2. How can the activity be structured to ensure participation by all members?
  3. How can the activity provide an opportunity for students to develop a connection with each other?
  4. How does the activity promote peer teaching/learning?

Group activities require student support in self-management

  1. What activities will you include for students to build trust and cohesion (e.g., group charter, team pictures, team blog, etc.)?
  2. What is the timetable for completion?  Have you taken into account time dependent on the medium (discussion board, synchronous meetings, etc.)?
  3. Are the tasks scaffolded into manageable chunks? Is there frequent feedback opportunities?
  4. What technologies will be used?  (Asynchronous Discussions? Drop box? Locker? Synchronous Chat? Others?)

Group activities require individual and group accountability

  1. How will accountability be built into the process?
  2. Is individual and group performance assessed (e.g., peer evaluation, group grade on product)?
  3. Is reflection built into the activity (self-assessment)?

This content was adapted from Week 3 of Pivoting to Online Teaching: Research and Practitioner Perspectives and Module 2 of the Effective Online Teaching Short Course by J. T. Dellinger, and is used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. Modifications include adjusted text for UTA context.

Developing a Small Group Activity Using Backward Design

  1. What do I want my students to be able to do (i.e., not just “know”) achieving higher order learning?
  2. What evidence or documentation do I require to demonstrate my students’ achievement of these desired results? Individually? As a group?
  3. What group learning activity will produce this evidence or documentation?
  4. What materials and resources are best suited to assist students in accomplish these goals?
    • What communication tools with the students use?
    • How will you facilitate interactions?
    • How much time will they need to get to know each other, develop a charter, accomplish the tasks, etc.?
    • Will you provide a sample product?


Here is a sample peer evaluation template for group activities: Sample Peer Evaluation Template.pdf

This content was adapted from Week 3 of Pivoting to Online Teaching: Research and Practitioner Perspectives and Module 2 of the Effective Online Teaching Short Course by J. T. Dellinger, and is used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. Modifications include adjusted text for UTA context.


Sample Discussion Prompts

This section includes sample discussion prompts for use in the Student Teamwork Guide. They are broken up by section for easy access.

Sample Discussion Prompts

What are the Benefits of Teamwork?

Being a Leader; Being a Follower

What is a Team and How Can You Contribute?

Marketing Your Teamwork Experience


Sample Exercises

This section includes six exercises that can be used by instructors to help develop teamwork skills. There are additional materials and activities that correspond with these exercises, and there are module-specific examples. These exercises can be used as written or modified to fit the context, timing, and/or needs of a particular class. Throughout these exercise, links are provided to guide instructors to supplementary materials.

Exercise 1


The purpose of this activity is to enrich participants’ understanding of what it means to be part of a team and why being a good team player is important for career success.


15-20 minutes



Choose and display five “teamwork” quotes from the list provided, or you may find your own quotes. This can be done on chart paper, writing quotes on sentence strips, or reading each quote aloud. What is important here is the quote – and not necessarily who said the quote.

Ask participants to choose the quote they like best. Divide the larger group into smaller groups according to the chosen quote (i.e., all participants who liked quote #1, etc.). Participants should spend approximately two minutes discussing the quote and coming to consensus on the reason they liked it the best. One member of each team should be prepared to offer the group’s feedback and reflection.

For another, more hands-on version of this activity, write each of the quotes on sentence strips. Cut the sentence strips into individual words or manageable chunks/phrases. Have groups work together to arrange the words/phrases into the correct order.


Refer to Module One in the Student Teamwork Guide that shows that employers rate the ability to be a “team player” as one of the most important qualities and characteristics of their current (and future) employees (i.e., the job candidate). Ask why this is might be so. Elicit responses and an interactive discussion. Encourage students to bring in material from their discussion of the quotes.


A friend comes to you seeking advice. He got into trouble at work for not being a team player. He really likes his job and isn’t quite sure what to do. What suggestions or observations about teamwork would you give to your friend to help him improve? How might he respond to his boss?


Have participants look through the Student Teamwork Guide and create their own personal quotes about teamwork…why it is important… what can be accomplished…etc. The quote should be one that encourages peers to gain a better understanding and perspective on the importance of teamwork AND why it is often a core value shared by many different cultures, populations, and groups.

Offer the opportunity for participants to research and share proverbs related to teamwork from their own cultures.

Exercise 2


Part of becoming a functional member of a team is learning to understand what you bring to the group and what you might need from others. This exercise, in conjunction with Module 4 of the Student Teamwork Guide, is designed to help participants begin to identify their individual strengths and needs regarding teamwork.


30 minutes



  1. Introduce this activity by reflecting on some of the quotes provided (if you have not completed Exercise 1 choose some of the quotes to discuss with the group – and offer a brief discussion on their meaning).
  2. Ask participants for a list of some of the characteristics they think make up a good team player. This might be phrased as follows: “What does it take from each person on a team to make a team really work?”
  3. Ask students to take the self-evaluation survey in the section “Evaluating Yourself and Your Team” found in the Student Guide. By completing the survey students will be developing an individual inventory of the skills they possess related to teamwork.


As part of the discussion, ask participants to share one of their identified areas of strengths – and one area they would like to improve. This discussion allows each to hear from others their areas of strength and need. This process may help those in need of assistance identify who might be able to offer it.


Ask students to consider their score on the Evaluating Yourself for Teamwork survey. Were they pleased with their results? What are some of the areas they would like to improve? How will they attempt to do this? Share with students resources at the university that may help them strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills.


Have participants ask someone they know and trust to rate them using a blank copy of the survey. Were the scores/checks similar or different? What does this tell them? Does this change any of the notes made related to skills to improve?

Have participants redesign the activity with words and/or actions that better describe the elements of teamwork from their perspective. Another option is for participants to schedule a meeting with an employer and get additional input as to how an employer might identify or describe the characteristics listed.

Teamwork Quotes for Exercises 1 & 2

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi (football coach)

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford (pioneer of the assembly-line production method)

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” – George Shinn (former owner of Charlotte, now New Orleans, Hornets basketball team)

“It is amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares about who gets the credit.” – Robert Yates (politician in the 1700s)

“Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.” – Author Unknown

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” – Mia Hamm (retired American soccer player)

“Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.” – Bill Bradley (American hall of fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar and former three-term Democratic U.S. Senator from New Jersey)

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan (former American basketball player, businessman and majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats)

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller (American author, political activist, lecturer, and the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.)

“The strength of the team is each individual member…the strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson (widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA)

“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek (advocate on behalf of peace, people with disabilities, and children with life-threatening conditions who died one month before his 14th birthday)

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey (American television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist)

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” – Casey Stengel (baseball hall of famer)

Exercise 3


Part of being a good team member is learning how to understand your personal strengths (what you have to offer) AND where you might need to draw assistance from others.


Look at the team roles and the brief description in Understanding Yourself as a Team Member. Ask students to describe what type of role appeals most to them.  What role would they like to fulfill but maybe don’t feel equipped right now? Ask students to rate their level of confidence in each role (HONESTLY) – and then encourage them to devise a plan for how they can improve some of the areas they think might need a “jump start.”

Evaluate Their Answers

Did they have mostly “disagree” checked off?

If so, they are still developing their confidence as a team player. These skills often take some time to develop; it might be helpful for them to reach out to someone they know and trust to help them focus on developing a plan for working on some of the skills in which they would like to be more confident. Highlight resources at the university that can be of help. Encourage them to not be afraid to ask for help, because asking for help when you need it is another great skill of a productive team player.

Did they have mostly “agree” checked off?

If so, they are pretty confident in your teamwork skills – but could probably use a little extra support or development in a few areas. Encourage them to invite someone close to them (someone they know and trust), to work with them on the areas they would like to improve. Let them know that most people would be really happy to help, and that there are many resources at the university. Let them know that learning the strategies to become a good team member takes time, energy, and dedication.

Did they have mostly “strongly agree” checked off?

If so, they are truly confident in their ability to be a good team player. That’s great! Encourage them to figure out an area or two where they would like to continue to see improvement (since we should always be striving to be the best we can be) and develop a plan for how to further grow those skills. Encourage them to offer support to someone you know who might be struggling with building his or her own level of teamwork confidence.


How did the results of the survey fit with your perception of your preferred role?

Now consider your teamwork skills confidence levels:

Exercise 4


Teamwork can be tough. Dealing with different personalities and compromise is not necessarily easy. So, what do you do when you are part of a team and there are barriers to the team’s success? This could be a sports team, a team at work, or a group working on a school or community project. The purpose of this activity is to engage participants in a discussion of some of the barriers to effective teamwork and the strategies they may be able to put in place to create positive outcomes.


25 minutes



  1. Ask participants if teamwork is ALWAYS easy. (Most likely you will receive “no” answers). Delve deeper and ask about some of the reasons why teams sometimes don’t work or what makes teamwork so difficult at times. Write these answers on the flip chart. Answers may include: inconsistent team players, time issues, compatibility, differences in communication styles (both giving and receiving), lack of trust, no clear goal, etc.
  2. Next, divide participants into groups of four or more. Ask each group to elect a team leader for this activity. Give each group a supply of spaghetti and marshmallows. Tell the group they will have 15 minutes to work together to create the tallest freestanding structure possible. Before you say, “go,” tell the teams that their team leaders may only supervise and offer instructions. He or she may not physically participate in this activity.
  3. After 15 minutes, evaluate the structures. Usually the highest structure has a solid and wide foundation. Discuss with participants what it means to have a solid foundation – and why laying a solid foundation is important (and the core of an effective team). 


 Use the following questions for additional discussion:

  1. How did your team work together? What specifically worked well? What difficulties did you experience?
  2. Besides the team leader, what role did each person play in the group? How was each person helpful to the end goal?
  3. Was it a plus or a minus that the team leader was not able to physically participate in the activity? How did the team leader feel about his or her level of participation?
  4. What would you do differently if given a second chance at this activity?


You are the leader of a team at work. What type of leader would you like to be – one that gets involved and works with the team or one that tells the team what to do? Explain your choice.


Have participants interview no fewer than 20 of their peers and ask two simple questions:

  1. What is the best part of working on a team?
  2. What is the most difficult part of working on a team?

Participants should be instructed to bring their results back to the larger group. The larger group should then examine the most common difficulties described and come up with solutions to turn these difficulties into successes.

Exercise 5


It takes all types of team members to create a balanced, cohesive team. This activity will give participants the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the roles different people play on a team and the importance of each role.


20 minutes



Before beginning this activity, place each of the five shapes in a different location in of the room. Ensure there is enough room for participants to move around for this activity. Discuss the fact that teams are all made up of people who perform different roles. Think about a sports team (football, basketball, soccer, hockey, etc.). What might happen if one basketball player hogged the ball all of the time? What might happen if the quarterback tried to run the ball all of the time instead of passing? So, it takes all different types of players to make an efficient and winning team, right?

Now, switch gears. Tell participants that not only does it take all different types of players to make a team effective; it takes all kinds of shapes, too.

Say something to the effect of: “I want you all to look around the room. Five different shapes are hanging up. The shapes are a square, a rectangle, a circle, a triangle, and a squiggle. What if I told you that knowing whether you, your co-workers and friends are squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, or squiggles could help you build better teams and better careers?”

Ask participants to stand up and take a few moments to think about the shape they like best or find most appealing. Then ask participants to walk over to that shape.

Once everyone has chosen their personal shape, use the information from “What Shape are You?” to tell them a little bit about each shape’s “personality.” In fact, when you are finished with this activity, many participants will want to have a copy of what the shapes mean.


Discuss the following questions with the group:


Do you think it is easy or difficult for different types of personalities to work together? Why is it important to not only understand how you work best, but to learn how others work best?


Spend some time with participants to explore different types of personality assessments for the purpose of team building. Have students take different assessments and determine the validity of each. Research further and find out which occupations are best suited for which types of personalities.

Another option is to have participants think about and describe their favorite sport and compare players on those teams with the different roles found in the workplace. Examples might include: boss – coach; customer – fan; player – co-worker; etc. See how many different types of comparisons can be made and how important it is for all of these roles to work together in order to create harmony on a team.

Which Shape are You?

There are some people who believe there are five basic personality types, and each type tends to prefer a different shape. Knowing whether you, your co-workers and friends are squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, or squiggles just might help you build better careers, teams, and friendships. Here is what each shape might say about you – and how you can recognize other people for their shapes.

If you are a SQUARE: You are an organized, logical, and hardworking person who likes structure and rules. But sometimes you have trouble making decisions because you always want more information. You feel most comfortable in a stable environment with clear directions on what to do. You tend to like things that are regular and orderly. You will work on a task until it is finished, no matter what.

How to spot a square: They appear to move “straight,” use precise or specific gestures, love routine, and are very concerned with detail. They are also very neat in their appearance and their personal workspace. They do a lot of planning and are always prompt.

If you are a RECTANGLE: You are a courageous (brave), exciting, and inquisitive explorer who always searches for ways to grow and change. You enjoy trying things you’ve never done before and love asking questions that have never been asked. You like structure, and will often be the person to be sure things are done the proper way, taking all rules and regulations into consideration. When you are given a task you will start organizing it to be sure it can be done in the most systematic way.

How to spot a rectangle: These people often have “fleeting eyes and flushed faces.” They also tend to giggle and they like variety. For example, they’ll come into work early or late — but not on time. And those who have offices tend to be disorganized with a mishmash of furniture.

If you are a TRIANGLE: You are a born leader who’s competitive, confident, and can make decisions. You also like recognition. You are goal oriented and enjoy planning something out and then doing it (you are motivated by the accomplishment). You will tend to look at big long-term issues, but might forget the details. When given a task you set a goal and work on a plan for it. American business has traditionally been run by triangles and, although usually men, more women are taking those roles today.

How to spot a triangle: They have powerful voices, love to tell jokes, and they play as hard as they work. They also tend to be stylish dressers.

If you are a CIRCLE: You are social and communicative. There are no hard edges about you. You handle things by talking about them and smoothing things out with everybody. Communication is your first priority. When given a task, you will want to talk about it. You are a “people person,” with lots of sympathy and consideration for others. You listen and communicate well and are very perceptive about other people’s feelings. You like harmony and hate making unpopular decisions.

How to spot a circle: They are friendly, nurturing, persuasive, and generous. They tend to be relaxed and smile a lot. They’re talkative, but have a mellow voice. They also have a full laugh and like to touch others on the shoulder and arm.

If you are a SQUIGGLE: You are “off-the-wall” and creative. You like doing new and different things most of the time and get bored with regularity. When given a task, you will come up with bright ideas about to do it. But you don’t think in a deliberate pattern from A to B to C. Instead, you tend to jump around in your mind, going from A to M to X.

How to spot a squiggle: They can be “flashy,” dramatic, and extremely creative – and they don’t like highly structured environments. Both men and women squiggles tend to be funny and very expressive. They also have great intuition. Most performers and writers are squiggles.

Exercise 6


The purpose of this activity is to help participants understand how teamwork is managed on the job – both from the perspective of the boss and from the perspective of the employee.


15 – 30 minutes



This exercise offers two different activities. You may choose one or both, depending on time. One is scenario based and one is a role play.

Activity 1: For this activity, read (aloud or independently) the library scenario. Discuss as a group what Shawn (the librarian) did well, and what she could have done differently. How might she handle herself in the future? Discuss how Nathaniel (the boss) should handle this situation. Consider the fact that he probably wants to help Shawn to improve and not necessarily punish her.

Activity 2: For this activity, request volunteers to act out a role play. Allow a few minutes for the actors to read through the scene so they know what their character is like. After the scene is read aloud, ask the following questions:


The importance of teamwork is undeniable. Ask the group to come up with a list of the benefits of teamwork and to illustrate or give examples of each. If the group has trouble coming up with a list, use the following as conversation starters:


Think about a time when you were part of a group/team and things worked really well, and a time when things didn’t work out so well. What were the situations and what made the differences?


Consider different jobs in your community. Arrange for field trips to some local job sites where participants can ask both managers and employees a few questions about teamwork (or ask an employer and employees to come in to talk about the impact of teamwork on the job). Alternatively, participants can do this independently and then share their experiences with the larger group.

Work with participants to develop a single set of questions to ask of managers and employees. Questions should be focused on the importance of teamwork and what happens when one or more chooses not to be a team player.

Activity 1


Shawn works in a library. She and three other co-workers have been tasked to work together on a project. Shawn turns in the completed product, but she completed it without input or help from the others. Shawn said it was really tough to find time to meet together. She did text the others (asking about working together), but got no responses. Her supervisor, Nathaniel, knows that she is a promising young librarian who wants to advance to a leadership position. Nathaniel also believes that Shawn has the potential to be a good leader, but feels she is impatient when it comes to working with others.


Activity 2


Jarrod, Steffy, Pam, John, Manager, Narrator

Five characters will role play a situation to determine whose job it is to restock the condiments at the coffee bar.

It wasn’t my job! It was Steffy’s job! The policy around here is that the new employee restocks cream and sugar station. She’s the newest employee. It’s her job!

I don’t get to work until 10:00. By the time I get here, the station should already be stocked. Otherwise, customers won’t have the stuff they need for their coffee.

You’re just trying to get out of doing your job.

No! Jarrod gets here at 7:00. He should already have it done by the time I get here.

You’re the newest employee.

What’s your problem?

What’s your problem?

I do my job.

But you’re the newest employee. It’s your job to restock.

Voices are getting louder.

But Jarrod gets here earlier. I am only trying to think about our customers.

Are you just trying to get out of your job?

You’re impossible.

No, you are!

Okay, okay! What’s the problem? Steffy, continue restocking the condiment station. Jarrod, go ring up the customers.

Both are taking a break from each other to calm down. Later in the day, the manager speaks to Jarrod and Steffy.

Steffy, Jarrod is right. The new person stocks the cream and sugar station.

So you mean Jarrod shouldn’t have to do this anymore?

Told you!

Jarrod! On the other hand, that rule was made when everyone came to work at the same time. However, since Steffy doesn’t come into work until later in the day, the customers have a right to have a fully stocked station.

So Steffy doesn’t have to do this job either?

No, I get it! Whoever comes in earliest should restock the station from the night before.

Okay, so I don’t have to restock the station all day? Just replenish from the night before. Steffy should then do it when she comes in – and then throughout her shift?

Exactly! Also, I would like you two to start treating each other with a little respect. It’s good to have a sense of humor. What happened to yours? Every customer and employee that comes in here deserves to be treated with courtesy. Okay? And, by the way, the customer is always right and always comes first.

(Next day) Their voices are calm and respectful.

Jarrod, I am here now. I’ll finish those. Why don’t you go take a break?

Okay, thanks! I think I will. Hey look, there’s a whole new kind of sugar that just came in. The boxes are in the back. I thought you might want to know.

Thanks, Jarrod.


Instructor-Created Lesson Plans

This section includes lesson plans that are specific to the use of the student teamwork guide as well as different courses at UTA. These will include examples from Peer Academic Leaders (PALs), Professional Learning Community fellows, and other instructors .


PAL Lessons

Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) are undergraduates who mentor incoming students and teach skills in first-year experience courses. PALs work closely with faculty members across all colleges to support students as they transition to life at the university. The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) team has worked with the PALs to implement the student teamwork guide in their courses and the PALs write lesson plans for the topics that they teach. These plans consist of different presentations, discussions, activities, and games. The QEP team has collaborated with the Division of Student Success and Library to curate some of these lesson plans in the Library’s Research Commons. These lesson plans are organized by semester and collections (ex: Engineering). There is also searchable metadata that includes subjects, descriptions, and authors. You can access these plans by scanning the QR code or clicking on the image below.


Research Commons QR

Media Attributions

  • Research Commons

PLC and Other Instructor-Created Lessons

Lesson plans created by UTA faculty, staff, and graduate students are available in the Library’s Research Commons. After each semester, additional lesson plans will be added to this resource hub with searchable metadata that includes subjects, descriptions, and authors. You can access these plans by scanning the QR code or clicking on the image below.


Research Commons QR


Media Attributions

  • Research Commons


Implementation Examples and Case Studies at UTA

This section includes examples of how members of the Professional Learning Community program at the University of Texas at Arlington intentionally implemented and evaluated teamwork in their courses.  The content takes shape in two ways: videos summaries and case studies.

Implementation Examples

These videos were created for the QEP and serve as exemplars of instructors implementing teamwork into their courses. Each of these instructors were fellows in the 2017-2018 Professional Learning Community program that focused on developing these skills to improve student outcomes in their courses.

Industrial Engineering – Dr. Bonnie Boardman

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Kinesiology – Dr. Becky Garner

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History – Dr. Katie Beebe

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Spanish – Dr. Ana Gregorio-Cano

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Case Study #1

Erika Pribanic-Smith, Department of Communication

Project Description

My goal was to determine if interventions to improve team cohesion through interpersonal communication would result in better team performance as measured by presentation cohesiveness on the final project. I conducted this assessment in a required course for all majors in the Department of Communication. Initial enrollment for the course was 123 students; four withdrew before the semester ended, and nine additional students stopped attending class but did not drop.

Each semester, students self-select into teams of 6-7 students on the first day of class. Students work in these teams throughout the semester on discussion exercises after lecture, team quizzes, and ultimately, a team presentation. In previous semesters, teams that communicated well with each other delivered excellent presentations, but most delivered the dreaded “patchwork project”; team members independently completed their tasks and then cobbled everything together at the last minute without knowing what others on the team were doing. Furthermore, Student Feedback Surveys indicated that a few students loved the team aspect of the course, but many hated it.

Employing team cohesion literature as well as Decision Emergence and Social Penetration theories, I hypothesized that developing stronger interpersonal ties among teammates via self-disclosure would assist in developing team cohesion, which in turn would motivate students to achieve team goals as a unit and keep each other accountable. I encouraged self-disclosure by developing discussion exercises that required students to come up with examples from their own lives for theoretical application. The disclosures grew more personal over the first half of the semester, starting with “Describe a situation in which you were misunderstood” (General Semantics Theory) and progressing to “Describe a situation in which someone shared your secret or you shared someone else’s” (Communication Privacy Management). A second intervention I employed to improve communication involved guided in-class team meetings, in which I assigned specific tasks related to the presentation assignment and provided instruction on the teamwork behaviors that should be exhibited at that stage of the project.

To measure team cohesion, students completed a team cohesion assessment survey (adapted from a Group Communication textbook’s team cohesion index) at four points during the semester: Week 2, Week 6, Week 10, and Week 14; the index consisted of 20 Likert-scale questions and one open-response question (“Is there anything you’d like to add?”). A Toastmasters list of criteria for group presentation cohesiveness was converted into a rubric for analyzing team performance on the final presentation.

Project Evaluation

Overall, the team cohesion assessment revealed a steady decline in team cohesion from the Week 2 survey to the Week 10 survey, then a spike between the Week 10 and Week 14 surveys. However, the literature recommends assessing team cohesion at both the individual level and the group level, and each level of analysis told a slightly different story in this project. The assessment survey included both individual-level and group-level questions, such that most individual-level questions (e.g., “I identify with the team and its members”) had a group-level counterpart (e.g., “Members of the team identify with the team”). The index of questions that gauged individual team members’ level of connection and commitment to the team demonstrated a relatively even measure of cohesion across the first three surveys with a slight bump in the second survey; the individual-level index rose sharply for the fourth survey. However, the index of questions that asked students to assess their fellow team members’ level of connection and commitment to the team sharply declined from Week 2 to Week 6, stayed nearly the same from Week 6 to Week 10, and then sharply rose by Week 14. In each survey, the individual-level index was higher than the group-level index, though the two indices were closer at Weeks 2 and 14 than in Weeks 6 and 10. (See figure below.)

Significantly, the Week 6 survey coincided with a presentation progress report deadline, and the Week 10 survey occurred around the deadline for teams’ presentation outlines. The open-ended responses at Week 10 in particular indicated that tensions were running high on teams in which students perceived their teammates were not doing their parts to complete the work. The Week 14 survey fell in the middle of presentations, and the overwhelming success of the presentations seems to have generated good will among most of the respondents.

Only one out of the 20 teams failed to score 100 percent on the presentation cohesiveness rubric, for an overall average of 96.4 percent (per Blackboard statistics). Nearly all of the presentations had good flow, consistent visuals (design of each PowerPoint slide), and consistent voice. In most cases, each teammate demonstrated knowledge of what each other teammate was doing. The presentations were tight and well-rehearsed. In short, most teams met the criteria for presentation cohesiveness. However, some went well beyond the Toastmasters criteria. Some teams coordinated their wardrobes; a few even coordinated the size and color of their notecards. Overall, with only one exception, the presentations were engaging and informative. Anecdotally speaking, they were the best presentations I have seen in my seven years teaching theory at UTA. A few even drew enthusiastic ovations from their peers.

Therefore, the class achieved the ultimate goal of cohesive team presentations, and despite dips in the middle, team cohesion was higher at the end of the semester than at the start. I do not believe the self-disclosure intervention affected team cohesion as anticipated, however. Reflections submitted the last week of the semester revealed that several students learned communication is a crucial part of effective teamwork, and some students even indicated that getting to know their teammates made a difference. I think much of that communication and bonding occurred outside of class, though. More significantly, because the team cohesion index increased amid successful presentations, team achievement affected team cohesion more than team cohesion affected team performance. I believe improved communication affected presentation cohesiveness directly rather than affecting team cohesion as a mediating factor.

Though a few students stubbornly insist that teamwork is terrible and they do better work on their own, the end-of-semester reflection responses were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating that students found the teamwork experience this semester to be not only valuable but also enjoyable. Several students indicated they made close friends or at least expanded their campus network, and some said they loved the class because of their teams. (See responses to the teamwork reflection in Appendix A.)

In sum, I believe the project was successful, not only at improving the team presentations but also at improving most of my students’ ability to work in teams and their view of teamwork in an academic setting.

Despite the successes outlined above, some issues arose that limited the development of team cohesion in some teams and specifically hampered the self-disclosure intervention. These are issues I hope to address in future semesters:

  1. Several students were absent the first class, and a handful missed the whole first week. Therefore, some students were placed into groups that already had formed and were not able to self-select into teams, and a few of those students were vocal about disliking the teams to which I assigned them. Significantly, the one team that consisted entirely of people who first attended on the second day of class had a disastrous presentation, and direct communication with some of the students on that team revealed they never gelled.
  2. Attendance throughout the semester became an issue for multiple teams. Based on open-ended survey responses, some students who missed a lot of class did not bond with their teammates as much as students who did attend, and those students also missed a lot of the decision-making and task-planning for the presentation, so they were not as involved or invested in the project as other team members.
  3. Some teams did not fully and properly engage in the self-disclosure exercises. I eventually discovered that some teams skipped the discussion altogether and just had the person who was providing the real-life example write out the discussion report due at the end of class to save time. Therefore, the members of those teams weren’t learning about each other at all; they just treated the exercise as something they had to turn in for a participation grade. Furthermore, although a different person was supposed to provide an example each time so that everyone was disclosing about themselves, some groups had the same person sharing an example every time.
  4. Attrition occurred on a handful of teams as some students officially dropped the class or simply stopped coming. Two teams suffered severely; both began the semester with seven members, but one presented with three members at the semester’s end, and another ended the term with only two members. Those few teammates certainly bonded, but their view of the team experience was negative.

Future Direction

Given the general success of this project, I will continue emphasizing communication in future semesters. However, to overcome some of the issues I encountered this semester, I will make a few changes.

  1. I feel self-selection works great for the most part. However, I will shift team selection to the second day of class to reduce the number of students who are absent at the time of selection and do not get to select their own teams.
  2. I will monitor the self-disclosure exercises more closely to ensure that teams are a) actually discussing and b) distributing the self-disclosure across team members more evenly. Though it will make attendance record-keeping more difficult and eliminate a valuable check on students’ understanding of the concepts, I will consider doing away with the written report so that students are more focused on the discussion and not just submitting something for a grade.
  3. I will have more in-class team meetings. We only had three this semester, and they were in the last half-hour of quiz days because I knew most students would be present for the quizzes. Some students stated in their open-ended responses that coordinating schedules outside of class was difficult, though, and they wished we had some full class periods designated for team work. Therefore, I will work some full-class work days into the schedule next time. Deadline stress and failure of teammates to contribute seemed to hamper team cohesion more than anything else, but hopefully having more time to work together in person will increase participation in the project and decrease tension. Doing so in class also will give me more opportunity to guide their communication and teamwork behaviors.
  4. Some students still will skip class and fail to become a true part of the team or contribute meaningfully to the project. Therefore, I will do more to monitor and alleviate those situations earlier in the semester. Some teams exercised their ability to “fire” team members after the outline, but others didn’t realize or remember that was an option and complained that they presented with teammates who hadn’t contributed to the research and writing. Furthermore, teams only exercised the firing option after the outline was due; none did so earlier in the semester. I believe completing a large component of the project with dead weight increased tension and decreased team cohesion. I will make sure at every checkpoint that students remember they can remove teammates who are not participating in the project, and I will increase the number of peer evaluations students complete to facilitate this process. After they present, students complete a peer evaluation that evaluates each teammates’ cooperation, timeliness of contribution, preparation (research, writing, selecting/producing visuals), and presentation performance. I considered implementing a modified version of that evaluation at each checkpoint but decided against it because I didn’t want students to confuse the peer evaluations with the team cohesion assessments or become overwhelmed with paperwork. I will discontinue the team cohesion assessments, though, and have students complete peer evaluations more frequently instead. These will alert me to issues earlier while encouraging students to think critically about their teammates’ contributions throughout the process and take action as needed. Hopefully issues coming to light sooner will enable me to combine teams that may end up with few members well before the presentation.

Appendix A

Reflection: What is the most important thing you learned about teamwork this semester? (unedited responses)

Be flexible when working with everyone’s schedules

Being ahead of the curve.

being flexible and allowing others to contribute

Coming together in person can make a lot of things a lot simpler as opposed to doing it all online

Communication is the key for a successful team environment.

Communication so the team can adjust to fit everyones’ needs.

Don’t let negativity ruin a good presentation.

Everybody has to work together toward the team’s goals. One person can’t carry the team effectively and if one or more people don’t do their work it make the rest of the team’s jobs much harder and more frustrating. With that said, when people do actually participate it helps to bond those members together and make a better, cohesive, end project.

How to collaborate

How to communicate & get things done on time by planning as a team.

How without fail, working as a team is awful.

I didn’t learn it because I already knew it, but the most important thing I already know is that I work better alone and I still really don’t like group work with random people.

I know now to be here the first day of class, so I can pick my own group members considering I have to pay over a thousand dollars a class.

I learned how to better understand people’s opinions and what they had to say about the issues we were talking about.

I learned that a lot of the time someone on the team will not put in as much effort and will just float along in which the other members will have to carry the extra weight.

I learned that if everyone is on the same page and at least somewhat dedicated to the end goal, the group work will be successful and maybe even enjoyable, which contradicted my previous ideas of group work.

I learned that if you set up expectations for how you want your team to work, it will be more successful.

I learned that most people are not willing to work on teams no matter how old they are or the level of education they have.

I learned that working on big teams is difficult and its important to find meeting times.

I learned that you cannot expect the same amount of effort from each team member, but that oftentimes other members of the team will step up and fill the gaps made. The best strategy for success is to work well with those who demonstrate a willingness to give their time and effort to making the project the best it can be.

If you don’t get to know the people you are in a group with, it makes it hard to work with them.

It definitely takes a lot of work to make your team effective. You must always put in effort to try to restructure your schedule so everyone can meet. You also have to trust and depend on one another.

It is tough to have all team members focus on a task and be organized, especially when we each have much more going on in our lives, but as long as we all communicate well the job can definitely be done. Communication is key, for sure.

Leaders shape the future, and every team needs a strong leader to succeed.

Learning to speak up and state my own opinion even when I’m not entirely confident. Communication and openness is key in order to fully thrive in a group project. I enjoyed my group and the time we spent working together. I consider them my friends.

making new friends 🙂

Making sacrifices to achieve the big picture the team set out to attain.

Most people do things last minuet and you can’t make anyone do anything on your time frame.

Not everyone is going to do their part, but what counts is that the other members have the integrity to step up and cover the people who are slacking.

Organization is important

Planning and communication are key

Sometimes, you gotta pick it up and be leader.

Start the team project ahead of time and not wait until last minute because then you might get some team members that do not contribute.

Teams hold me down and block me from my shine  I learned I don’t work well well with others. But the assignment was cool. Groups make my head hurt

that communication is very important

That everyone needs to do their part to make the team run smoothly. Also, communication is key.

That google docs saves lives. It is very easy for everyone to be working on the same slides at once and that automatically save once you stop typing so nothing gets lost.

That some people are disrespectful. I also learned that others are extremely respectful. Projects definitely can’t be pushed back to the last minute. I also learned that understanding concepts after a lesson were much easier to understand working in a group because we were able to apply them to things we knew in real life.

That time is a key concept in getting things done in the time allotted, giving us the opportunity to finish our work thoroughly to where we have time to go over it a second time.

That time managing is essential to being prepared.

That we all have busy lives and we all work differently but we all trusted each other and that we would get all of our parts done, not micro manage each other and it would all workout.

The important thing I learn is that communication is one of the most important things to make a team successful. We kicked a few people out of our team because they did not execute their role as agreed. Once they were notified they were kicked out they were offended because the rest of the team did not understand their personal life situations, nonetheless, they never spoke about the problems they had at all to maybe find an alternate way as a team to complete each task as we had agreed to. We could not help them at the end nor feel empathic because they were not communicating with us how they said they were. Everyone was open about their situations they had going on outside of class, either school related, work or even personal but those people never did. They would agree to everything and say they would do it but at the end they did not and we did not feel compassionate about it because they never once did communicate anything about the possible encounters they could have or had been facing.

The longer we worked together the more stuff we had in common and accomplished our goals.

The most important thing I learned about being on a team is that unplanned circumstances happen and you have to be ready for them.

The most important thing I learned about working in a team is that sometimes, you can’t count on everyone to keep their word.

The most important thing I learned about working with a team this semester was planning and working around difficult schedules, improvising to get the job done.

The most important thing I learned from working in a team, was mostly time management and working together to achieve the same goal. Our theory had a lot to do with how our team functioned so it was nice to incorporate the two together.

The most important thing I learned on this team is that its best to not be last minute about things but to be ahead of things.

The most important thing I learned this semester about working in a team is how busy schedules can impact your plans. This led to working even harder in finding the best solution, where sometimes it meant dividing up who meets up on one day and who the other, with some meeting both days. Figuring out schedules can be the most daunting task but it can easily have a solution if you begin making a plan.

The work gets done when everyone is involved!

Things move better when you work together

This has been one of my favorite classes yet and I am thrilled to have gotten to meet every member in my group. I personally believe we will all never forget each other.

This semester i learned that even in a college setting where everyone is here to learn and get a good grade you may still encounter other that don’t play well. Sometimes it takes someone to be the bigger person and groom the team to just understand that we are all here just to get the job done.

To be more assertive in all aspects of my life.

To listen more than anything because there are so many things to learn and value about one another. We all come different places but somehow we all ended up in the same group! I love my team!!

To make sure that I am available to the team and to organize my time around the team’s schedule so as to make sure we get everything done.

to properly plan and create timetables for the group assignment.

We’re all different and unique, but yet we all think as one, all have the same mindset in order to reach our goal for this semester.

When everyone puts out and carries their own responsibilities like they should, the team can take ideas and form them into what we need, be it for an assignment or anything else.

Working in a big team is difficult but if at least most of the members coordinate to work towards the same goal then the team can create a fantastic piece of work.

Working in a team requires a lot of organization and patience. Now that we are in college, we all have different schedules and sometimes is hard to contact each member of the group however it’s not impossible. I have seen many people with busy schedules and still made the effort to contribute to the team. I have learn that we must be willing to work hard, have patience, and organization in order to have a strong contributing team. I am glad this class requires to grade our members because in that way I can show the great or minimal effort that each member did on the project.

You have to be willingly to sacrifice your schedule in order to work effectively with a team.

You need to be patient with people, but you can’t be a pushover.




Hart Research Associates. (2018). Fulfilling the American dream: Liberal education and the future of work. Washington D.C.: AAC&U. Retrieved from

SACSCOC. (2018). Institutional Planning and Effectiveness. In Resource manual for the principles of accreditation: Foundations for quality enhancement (3rd ed., First Printing, p. 58). Decatur, GA: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (n.d.). 60x30TX Higher Education Plan. Retrieved from×30-strategic-plan/

University of Texas at Arlington. (n.d.) Strategic Plan: 2020. Retrieved from