Creating teams for your course

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I talked last semester with a few graduate students regarding various methods for creating teams in a course.  Depending on your goals, using a random method (count off by 2's, random team generator in ANGEL, etc) might be adequate.  But if you are putting students in teams for semester-long, complex assignments you might want to have a method in place for creating teams that gives each team the best possible chance of success.

One method for doing this is a self assessment. I'm teaching a course this semester that is cross-listed over three departments and involves multiple team assignments.  Each deliverable emphasizes a slightly different skill set.  Before the semester began, I created a survey in ANGEL using the survey tool, and simply called it a self-assessment.  The survey is less than 10 questions, asking students to rank their understanding of certain concepts on a likert scale, as well as an open ended question, where students can report specific software packages they use that apply to the broader concepts of the course. 

Now, going into Day 2 of class, I am confident students are in teams where each team member brings something important and valuable to the table.  Each team contains personnel with knowledge in each concept area, and I was able to put at least 2 students together (per team) that had similar experiences with a specific software package.

All of this took about an hour (creating the assessment and then reviewing answers and creating teams). In a situation where teams are expected to tackle complex, semester-long assignments, you might want to think about using a method similar to this in an effort to create an environment where each team has the personnel and knowledge to succeed.

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Sounds like a cool approach. I'll share it with some workshop participants who asked me about group-formation strategies the other day....

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