CHEST: Coherent Harmonious Effective Student Teams

CHEST: Coherent Harmonious Effective Student Teams

Project Lead

Kathleen O’Sullivan, School of Mathematical Sciences

Project Team Members

Kathleen O’Sullivan, School of Mathematical Sciences;

Dr. John O’Mullane, School of Computer Science and Information Technology;

Dr. David O’Sullivan, School of Applied Psychology;

Prof. Liam Fanning, Dept. of Medicine.

The Teaching Challenge

A critical skill for all students is the capability of working effectively as team members. Group work builds transferable skills. Collaborative learning (CL) is at the centre of group work and relies on students knowing their own strengths and those of their team. Students seldom know what strengths they can bring to a team. Creating a high-performing team is more likely if team members recognise and understand their own and team members’ strengths. We have successfully used an in-person single-session Positive Psychology Team-Building Exercise (PPTBE) in which students explored how to apply their strengths in teamwork, enabling them to become more valuable team members. One constraint of student teams in an educational setting is their temporary nature. Having a structure for building team cohesion mitigates this. More recently, skills in virtual teamwork are required as a significant percentage of workplace teams use technology to communicate and cooperate. Consequently, building skills in virtual teamwork is essential in third level programmes. We faced the challenge of pivoting from in-person teams to virtual teams, which necessitated a rework of our in-person PPTBE. We further had to rethink how to assess the effectiveness of the PPTBE intervention.

The Project

We redesigned and further developed our in-person single-session positive psychology team-building exercise (PPTBE) intervention so that it is suitable as an intervention for virtual student teams. We explored and identified appropriate metrics to assess the intervention’s effectiveness in this virtual setting. We have translated the in-person single session PPTBE to an online workshop. We designed the workshop to consist of two arms, a positive psychology (PP) intervention (arm 1) and a non-intervention (arm 2). We think about our workshop as four parts, all teams participate in creating a team identity, Parts 1 and 2. Then the teams separate into one of the two arms for Parts 3 and 4. The workshop ends when all teams have completed Part 4. We have applied for ethical approval to conduct (1) a pilot study in order to assess the structure and format of the workshop and (2) a study to assess the effectiveness of our proposed PPTBE intervention. We developed a protocol for delivering the workshop in a virtual environment. The pilot study will examine the automated techniques to analyse the data, such as speech transcription, speaker diarisation, and parts-of-speech analysis. The opportunities for automation will inform the study.

The Impact

Kathleen was invited to present our CHEST research at the Workshop, “Going all online - teaching practice, learning design and assessment”, Thursday March 18, 2021, organised by the School of Mathematical Sciences (University College Cork) as part of the National Forum Seminar Series 2020/2021. The title of the talk was “Single-Session Positive Psychology Team Building Exercise: Lessons Learnt Plans Made”.

We contributed a paper titled “A SINGLE-SESSION POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY TEAM BUILDING EXERCISE FOR ONLINE TEAMS” which will appear in the EDULEARN21 Proceedings. The format of EDULEAR21 will be virtual presentations, and John and Kathleen presented our work, EDULEARN21, July 05 to 06, 2021.

CHEST aligns with Priority 4 of UCC’s Academic Strategy in “facilitating students’ development of core values and graduate attributes”. Central to the PPTBE intervention is the identification and application of VIA character strengths in team settings. Empirical data from many studies show that when people work from their strengths rather than their weaknesses, they are more motivated, enjoy their work more, are happier, more resilient, more engaged at work and perform better at work. When our work connects with our signature strengths, we feel that our work matters. This recognition of what is best about us beyond our talents is profoundly meaningful. This aligns directly with the values of respect for self and others, ambition for exemplary work ethic and success, compassion for self and others, resilience for problem-solving and personal well-being, and integrity.

CHEST aligns with Pillar 3: Student Success of UCC’s strategic goals in learning and teaching. Providing students with knowledge of their signature strengths and an understanding of team dynamics gives them a foundation for lifelong personal and professional development. In exploring their character strengths, students may discover talents and abilities that they never knew they possessed, opening up opportunities for further growth.

Employers seek graduates with strong teamwork and collaboration skills. Equipping students with teamwork and virtual teamwork skills creates graduates that are a good fit for work in the digital age.

CHEST will construct another step in the journey of creating students who graduate as self-aware, well-rounded individuals who are socially responsible, empathetic who by recognising the diversity of character strengths in others will know and challenge inequality.

Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL)

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