If ever you have utilized a collaborative approach in your courses, you might be familiar with the following. Sometime just after the middle of the semester, a student contacts you complaining about various problems and/or people within their team during the first nine or ten weeks of the term. Typically, it is clear from the language of such emails that these young adults want someone else to step in and address the litany of issues described. Yet a large part of student-centered learning...
If ever you have utilized a collaborative approach in your courses, you might be familiar with the following. Sometime just after the middle of the semester, a student contacts you complaining about various problems and/or people within their team during the first nine or ten weeks of the term. Typically, it is clear from the language of such emails that these young adults want someone else to step in and address the litany of issues described. Yet a large part of student-centered learning is providing young minds with the tools necessary to help them navigate our courses with a reasonable amount of success as well as the skills necessary for our students to address any related interpersonal challenges. For many undergraduates in 2022, learning to manage the latter, in particular, is one area where guidance is often necessary. Here is the language I now use to provide helpful suggestions that keep students in the driver's seat without helicoptering in to the rescue myself:
Thank you for your email X. Your frustration is certainly understandable. The issue(s) you describe are something that the entire team should address together in order to determine a concrete and efficient way forward. Communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, and revision of team work habits or processes are all part of effective collaboration.
With that in mind, take a proactive approach to the points outlined in your email. That means ALL of you should collaborate to identify the exact problems hindering the team. A passive ‘wait and see’ approach will not change the situation. Neither will a round of strident text messages or email back and forth between team members. What will help is for all team members to prioritize a meeting in real time plus their direct involvement in making concrete decisions to improve the dynamic and move ahead in the most efficient way possible.
Whether your team meets online or face to face, have an honest yet civil discussion to determine and implement the changes team members deem necessary. This is not easy, but it is vital for improving the situation. Positive change in a team setting comes through strategic, organized, and well-executed plans with specific goals identified and carried out in an orderly manner.
Beginning this sort of conversation might feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Contact your other team members right away. Arrange a meeting in real time to pinpoint and address the ongoing issues within the team. Brief explainer videos, part of each course module, provide tips for effective collaboration, but here are three for review that are most relevant:
It is also beneficial for the entire team to revisit its list of values developed early in the semester plus the specific member roles determined at that point. These tasks were part of Week Three team activities when weekly collaboration began. Likewise, have a look again at your collective responses to questions on the team assessment worksheets, part of the collaborative work for Week Six and Week 11. On those, your team took stock of its processes and work habits followng completion of Project #1 and Project #2. Your team also identified collective steps it could take to improve collaboration as part of that work.
Keep in mind that active collaboration to address team issues is solid practice for life in the globalized digital economy of the 21st century where 'teams' are the norm. In most fields now, no single person is responsible for project research, development, and completion. Cohesive teamwork is the name of the game.
Careful attention to the guidance above will help your team have a productive discussion, pull together, and move forward more effectively in the time remaining this semester. Your student learning team is in the driver’s seat and has the power to do this.
Keep in mind that the intent is to guide and empower young adults in navigating their own lives. The language offered above might be too forthright for some, but it gets to the heart of the matter and communicates to students that their interpersonal issues are something they must learn to handle now if they have not already done so. After all, the adult world following graduation is not that far off, and we do our students no favors by taking care of their problems for them.
The language presented works for individual queries but can also be sent to the entire student learning team as a reminder with appropriate changes made. If this idea sounds like something you might like to try yourself, feel free to tailor the reply above to your own needs.