Teaching Teamwork in Design: A Framework for Understanding Effectiveness in Student Teams

Teaching Teamwork in Design: A Framework for Understanding Effectiveness in Student Teams

Richard Tucker (Deakin University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0726-0.ch001


This chapter proposes an Input-Process-Output framework for understanding what impacts the effectiveness of teamwork when higher education students are collaborating on design assignments. The framework can help design educators integrate teamwork into their courses and better evaluate learning outcomes, and may also elucidate good practice for professional design teams. Explaining the genesis of the framework, the literature is assimilated on team effectiveness and predictors of team performance, including: definitions, dimensions and frameworks of team effectiveness in contexts far wider than design education. Informed by the challenges specific to teaching design, a 22-factor framework is proposed. The paper concludes with recommendations for teachers informed by the framework. The viability of the 22-factor model of team effectiveness is evidenced by national surveys across Australia, which are reported in summary here.
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Teamwork skills are essential in the design industry where practitioners negotiate often-conflicting design options in multi-disciplinary teams. Indeed, many of the bodies that accredit design courses explicitly list teamwork skills as essential attributes of design graduates e.g., the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) of the United States and the Institution of Engineers, Australia (IEAust). In addition to the need of meeting the demands of the accrediting bodies, there are many reasons for the ubiquitous use of teamwork assignments in design schools. For instance, teamwork learning is seen as being representative of work in practice where design is nearly always a collaborative activity.

Learning and teaching in teamwork contexts in design education are not without particular challenges. In particular, two broad issues can be identified: first, many students leave academia without having been taught the knowledge and skills of how to design in teams; second, teaching, assessment and assignment design need to be better informed by a clear understanding of what leads to effective teamwork and the learning of teamwork skills. In recognition of these issues, this paper sets out to elucidate the following questions: within the context of higher education design learning, what factors impact the effectiveness of student teamwork, and how might learning experiences be improved by recognising these factors? It is argued that an understanding of the factors that contribute to positive learning outcomes for students designing in teams will help design educators better support learning within teamwork contexts and the learning of teamworking skills.

In this chapter, a framework is proposed for understanding what impacts the effectiveness of student collaboration on team design assignments. The framework was first posited as part of a two-year Australian Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) funded project: Enhancing and assessing group and team learning in architecture and related design contexts. The framework was informed by a literature review investigating what constitutes effective teamwork, what contributes to effectiveness in teams, what leads to positive design outcomes for teams, and what leads to effective learning in teams. The purpose of the framework is to identify the factors theoretically impacting effective teamwork, along with teaching responses and strategies that design educators might use to better support student learning. The validity of this multi-factorial Framework of Effectiveness in Student Design Teams was tested via surveys of educators’ teaching practices and attitudes, and of students’ learning experiences. 638 students and 68 teachers completed surveys: two pilot surveys for participants at the four partner institutions of the OLT funded project, which then informed two national surveys completed by participants from the majority of design schools across Australia. The data collected provided evidence for 22 factors impacting the effectiveness of student design teams. Pedagogic responses and strategies to these 22 teamwork factors were devised, tested and refined via case studies, focus groups and workshops. Analysis of the surveys also allowed for the determination of the relative importance of the 22 factors by analysing their correlations with ratings by teachers and students of their satisfaction with the outcomes of teamwork learning. Thus, the framework was not only intended to provide a checklist of the pedagogical issues that need to be considered, but it also allowed for the prioritization of these issues according to learning context and, importantly, to which of the issues have the greatest evidenced impacts on learning and team effectiveness. While the detailed description of this analysis and its findings is the subject of a previous publication ((Tucker et al. 2014)), and of a paper currently in authorship, a summary of these findings will be given in Section 7 of this chapter.

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