Project Management: Collaboration

Collaboration is the ability to be a productive member of a team using communication, leadership, and initiative to attain common goal. Systems that scaffold collaboration promote:

  • Effective student roles and responsibilities
  • Group and Individual Accountability
  • Development of Students’ Collaboration Skills Over Time


Effective Students Roles & Responsibilities


Sample team roles:

Examples of students roles in groups include:

  • Team Leaders: help students set and track team /individual goals
  • Proof-Reader: check the quality of student work against the rubric
  • Materials Manager: learn how to check out, use, and return project equipment
  • Group Facilitator: help students observe the norms in their group contracts
  • Communications Liaison: help teams hold discussions that include meaningful contributions from all team members and help teams ask teachers for clarification and help as needed

For related reading on roles in math groups, you can read this related blog article.


Scaffolding team roles:

Teachers can train students on these roles in many ways including:

  • Facilitating discussions to brainstorm actions students will take while serving in roles
  • Mini-workshops with students about responsibilities associated with their roles
  • Short reflections that ask students to describe how acting in their roles impact their teams


Class officers

In addition to team roles, students can assume leadership roles within their classes.  Each six weeks, several classes at CINGHS elect class officers.  Examples of class officers include:

  • Facilitators who:
    • Go over the daily agenda with the class at class start,
    • Lead some class discussions, and
    • Lead class activities when the teacher is absent
  • Time Keepers who:
    • Answer questions about the timing of activities
    • Periodically announce how much time is left in class
    • Limit the lengths of class activities
  • Grade Managers who:
    • Use period task completion charts to remind students to turn in late work
    • Gather student work on grading days
    • Email reminders to students who need to complete late work

These officers are elected by their classmates at the start of each six-weeks grading period.  If they are not impeached for poor service, they act in their role for an entire six weeks.  They usually receive extra credit in exchange for their hard work.


Group and Individual Accountability


Group contracts:

One tool that promotes group and individual accountability is a group contract.  See linked example below.  In group contracts, students describe their goals and the norms and strategies they will engage in as a team to meet those goals.

Some contracts include a firing process.  Students who do not meet team agreements can be penalized with warnings that can eventually result in the firing of the student if he or she does not improve their contributions to the team.  A student who is fired needs to complete the project on his or her own.


Group Logs:

Students working in teams can set daily goals in a Group Log.  The group contract linked above has a group log template on the back of the contract.  When introducing the group log to students it is helpful to model how to set specific helpful daily goals.


Collaboration rubrics & evals:

Students can use collaboration rubrics to complete complete collaboration evaluations for their teammates.  These evaluations provide feedback students on specific collaboration skills.  Prior to completing collaboration evaluations, it is sometimes helpful to have students reflect on the contributions, strengths and challenges of each of their teammates.  They can share some of the highlights of their reflections with their teammates using Critical Friends language (I likes …, I wonders … , Next Steps ….). This discussion can prepare students to assign fair collaboration scores to their teammates and can provide students with specific feedback that explains why their scores are high or low.



Development of Collaboration Skills Over Time


Face-to-Face Warm-Ups

Teachers can include Face-To-Face prompts in regular warm-ups at the start of class in order to scaffold students’ collaboration little by little over time.  Sample Face-To-Face prompts include:

  • Discuss one thing your team did well yesterday.  How can you continue or improve on this thing to make your team even more successful today?
  • Discuss one thing your team did poorly yesterday.  What can you do today to eliminate this team challenge or distraction?
  • Share one positive thing each team member has contributed to the team and share one thing they can focus on to improve their collaboration.



Workshops involving Role Playing:

Students can practice handling challenging collaboration situations by role playing difficult situations and consulting with each other and other teams on positive ways to resolve the situation.  Situations they can role play and then brainstorm how to resolve include:

  • A team member is too bossy
  • A team member is not engaged
  • A team member does not communicate his or her ideas about how work should be divided
  • A team member is struggling to contribute due to many absences

After students act out the situations, students should come together to discuss what they noticed and to discuss possible resolutions to the situation.  Teachers can help students apply their discoveries by using their suggestions to create a Collaboration Strategies list that describes potential ways to resolve common group problems.


Workshops Involving Team Building Games:

Students can play ice breaker games that require students to interact in teams while playing fun games.  For suggestions, you can visit   Teacher can facilitate discussions about the ways teams succeeded (and did not) while playing the games.  Students’ observations can be compiled into anchor charts that list actions that promote good and poor teamwork.  Later in projects, students and teachers can refer back to these lists to look for strategies on the positive lists and to redirect team members using examples from the negative lists.


Workshops on Technology Tools that Promote Collaboration


Collaboration Tech Tools

Students can be coached on how to use technology tools that promote good collaboration.  Examples include:

  • Google calendar – students can use this app to setup team reminder notifications for upcoming deadlines
  • Google keep – students can use this app to share and update checklists of team To Do’s


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