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Engineering has never been more competitive—emerging from the recession, engineering firms are leaner than ever and accustomed to achieving more with less, satisfying more demands from clients, and meeting shorter deadlines. What else can an already-lean company do to operate even more efficiently and gain a competitive edge?

The answer is team-building.

Amnong several important points highlighted in this article, two recommendations are worth considering:

1."The goals and objectives of the team must be stated in measurable terms and directly related to the organization's mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives."

2 "A level of understanding and trust is also required for maximum team performance. Team members need to be aware of the personal traits, values, and needs of their colleagues. Team leaders must also provide an environment for trust and assure fairness."

Read the whole article by Mark Crawford in ASME Knowledgebase: Teaching Teamwork to Engineers


As you begin to form teams for your class projects, you may find out that your team consists of members from different cultures, countries, or races with diverse background.  In such situations, it is extremely important for you to learn more about each other so that you can develop an understanding  of  each others' strengths, weaknesses and academic needs. 'Training for Change' resource, with emphasis on experiential learning,  provides  several valuable exercises on how to build effective teams.

Here is one such excercise from this great resource: I am the center...

"Whenever a new group forms people are always curious: Who else is in the room? This kinesthetic exercise allows peoples curiousity to show up and to learn about who is in the room. And, does it in a way that gets people working together.

GOAL
  • to help the group get to know each other (to "warm up" the room);
  • to have the group learn where each other are literally and figuratively "coming from".
HOW IT'S DONE
One of you can facilitate this exercise and encourage your team members to actively engage in 'getting to know each other' type of activities.

Have participants stand up and clear out any mess/chairs from the floor space. Physically place yourself in the center of the room and declare, "Where I am standing is" - and finish with the location of the training (Bangkok, Philadelphia, Accra, etc.). Explain that the ground in the room is something like a map of the world - you might have the group point out the directions (North/South/East/West)."

Follow the complete exercise at: I am the center...

Share your experiences with each other. Get to know each other. This will help you as your team begins to work on your group project for a class.

Source: Training for Change, Team Building Tools, URL: http://www.trainingforchange.org/tools/Team-building
Created by Daniel Hunter with Margaret Lechner and the Conflict Resolution Center in Richmond, Indiana.


http://youtu.be/1nBwfZZvjKo

Sometimes it's hard to be a good group member.

Why is it so hard to just write up your section of your group project? Sometimes you just can't bring yourself to write it!

This handy video explains why we procrastinate, and more importantly, it gives some great techniques to stop the cycle.

My favorite technique is setting a timer for homework time. I can focus on anything for 30 minutes at a time.

 


For your group to work effectively and efficiently each member has a role to play.  Identify the roles needed to accomplish the assignment at hand.  Here are some customary roles you might consider.

Recorder:  Basically keeps track of decisions, ASSIGNMENTS, and due dates.  This person is the key communicator outside of face to face time—gathers everyone’s email and cell phone numbers.

Reporter:  When there's a blackboard, whiteboard or large pad it's very helpful for someone to put important points up.  This visual stimulus drives ideas and discussion moving a project forward.  Yes, this really works.  We have lots of whiteboards at the Library Learning Terrace and study rooms in all of our libraries are equipped with blackboards or whiteboards.  Go for it!

Leader:  Discovers the talents in the group—who has math skills, who has graphic skills, who has writing skills and make assignments accordingly; keeps the group moving on the project, keeps everyone on task.

Manager:  Stays on top of due dates, nags members for their  contributions and keeps all informed about progress.  Key word here:  Organized

The roles listed above can be combined or divided up.  For an effective and efficient group understand these functions are crucial to your successful project.


In online courses, students are required to virtually participate in group projects with three to five students in their teams. Even in a face to face class, usually team members will need to collaborate in a virtual environment in order to share documents and exchange ideas . I came across a nice resource on how to successfully accomplish a group project in a virtual environment.

Some excerpts from this resource:

"Distance learning group work is often a challenging task for many online learners. Reasons abound for the complexity associated with this type of online learning assignment; however, group projects are manageable even with all the stories you may have heard from others. The key to success boils down to one basic principle – communication. This leads to building a bond or sense of community with other members in a group.

Besides communication, successful completion of distance learning group assignments and projects requires a proactive mind-set on your part. Once an online learning group project is assigned and group members are identified, it is essential to contact other members immediately to begin building a community within the group. Positive group dynamics is important to building a successful community relationship."

Remember 'Last minute contribution by a group member is a leading contributor of group failure' .
Read the whole article by David R. Wetzel on how to successfully contribute virtually in a group  project at: 

Distance Learning Tips for Online Group Work Success


A nice and informative resource, on teamwork and characteristics  that identify effective teams, is available from the Non Destructive Testing (NDT) Center at 'Teamwork in the Classroom'.

Some excerpts from this resource:

"What is Teamwork?

Teamwork is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group." This does not mean that the individual is no longer important; however, it does mean that effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals involved harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal.

Characteristics of Effective Teams.

The following are eight characteristics of effective teams the were identified by Larson and LaFasto in their book titled Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (Sage Publications 1989).

  1. The team must have a clear goal. Avoid fuzzy, motherhood statements. Team goals should call for a specific performance objective, expressed so concisely that everyone knows when the objective has been met.
  2. The team must have a results-driven structure. The team should be allowed to operate in a manner that produces results. It is often best to allow the team to develop the structure.
  3. The team must have competent team members. In the education setting this can be take to mean that the problem given to the team should be one that the members can tackle given their level of knowledge.
  4. The team must have unified commitment. This doesn't mean that team members must agree on everything. It means that all individuals must be directing their efforts towards the goal. If an individual's efforts is going purely towards personal goals, then the team will confront this and resolve the problem.
  5. The team must have a collaborative climate. It is a climate of trust produced by honest, open, consistent and respectful behavior. With this climate teams perform well...without it, they fail.
  6. The team must have high standards that are understood by all. Team members must know what is expected of them individually and collectively. Vague statements such as "positive attitude" and "demonstrated effort" are not good enough.
  7. The team must receive external support and encouragement. Encouragement and praise works just as well in motivating teams as it does with individuals.
  8. The team must have principled leadership. Teams usually need someone to lead the effort. Team members must know that the team leader has the position because they have good leadership skills and are working for the good of the team. The team members will be less supportive if they feel that the team leader is putting him/herself above the team, achieving personal recognition or otherwise benefiting from the position."

Dear Group Work Guru,

I am freaking out. I am the editor of my team's group project and I am pretty sure that one of our group members plagiarized their section. What I am supposed to do now?

Help help help!

Sincerely,
Freaked out Frosh

P.S. Help help help!


Dear Frosh,

I'm very sorry that this is happening to you.

Plagiarism is a very serious offense in universities. It's serious enough to get you expelled. The Drexel University Code of Conduct is very clear that plagiarism is not tolerated. Under no circumstances should you turn in work that you know is plagiarized. If your name is on the assignment, there are serious consequences, even if you weren't the one who did the plagiarizing.

Here are some steps to take if you suspect plagiarism.

1. Communicate to everyone in your group about your concerns about the writing/citing/intellectual contributions. Explain to them where the problems are and why you think that sections may need work before turning it in. If it's a matter of some better citing of sources or paraphrasing, work with your team to redo it.

2. If the plagiarism is rampant, obvious, and cannot be easily fixed, you have to tell your professor.

3. In the meantime, continue to work with your entire group to fix the problems and eliminate all the plagiarized sections.

4. If the majority of your group believe that the teammate who submitted the plagiarized section can't or won't fix it in time to turn in the project, alert your professor.

5. If it's not fixable, you can ask your professor to grade each section separately or come up with an alternative that will you allow to get credit for your effort.

Even though confronting another group member about plagiarism is the right thing to do, it can be very stressful. Do your best to keep it classy and try to keep the lines of communication open with all your group members. If you feel overwhelmed, please set up some time to talk to your adviser.

Remember that your goal here is to protect your own academic integrity. It's not about making sure plagiarists get punished or that justice is served.

You're doing the right thing for everyone.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Grouptaciously yours,

Group Work Guru


RefShare

RefShare  is a social networking tool. It provides RefWorks users with a quick and easy way to share their research information, share folders with or without attachments, and add comments and provide feedback on shared references. This will assist you in enhancing your collaborative research with your team members.

Using RefShare, you can make a list of citations from your RefWorks account public, either on the Drexel Shared Folders list, or via a URL that you can email, or post on a webpage. RefShare can be used for course readings, to share citations for a research project, or even for favorite books. A Comments feature can be turned on to allow feedback on the readings in a list.

Learning material

RefWorks 2.0 Customizable Quick Start Guide. See the section on 'Managing and Sharing your References'.

RefShare Factsheet

See also:

Using Refworks to build your collaborative bibliography for your group projects

 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPoHPNeU9fc

We're just at the point in the quarter when your group has to pull it all together and finish your project. If you're still feeling a little rough around the edges, why not get your group together and have an outing to see the new Avengers movie?

Why The Avengers?

It's a great inspirational movie about a diverse group of superheros who manage, beyond great differences, to come together to become greater than the sum of their parts. Sounds familiar, right?

The Project:
Work together to fight Loki, a Norse god who has brought an army of outer space aliens down to Earth to wreak havoc and mayhem upon the citizens of New York City.

Teammates:
Black Widow: Excellent communication abilities and martial arts skills.
Captain America: Fancy shield. Hand-to-hand combat skills. Strong leadership abilities, albeit a bit old fashioned.
Incredible Hulk: Perhaps the weak link in this team, due to uncontrollable rage and a penchant for chaotic destruction.
Iron Man: Great access to technological gadgets, a fancy iron suit, and his own skyscraper. Trouble with authority.
Hawkeye: Skilled archer.
Thor: Demigod with a magic hammer and flowing blonde hair. Also has insider knowledge about Loki.

Without giving too much away, let's just say that our diverse group of superheros must learn to work together for the greater good of the whole world. They start off as individuals and by the end of the movie, they're a team! If Iron Man and Captain America can respectfully work together and if the Incredible Hulk can find ways to add value to his group, anything is possible.


Here's some mid-term group work inspiration:

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
- African proverb

 


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