Identifying Training Needs and Approaches for Student Team Effectiveness in On-campus and Virtual (On-line) Teams

Grant recipients and project team: Jay (John) Michela, Department of Psychology

(Project timeline: September 2017 - August 2018)


Although teamwork is widely promoted in support of deep student learning, students' gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) for effective teamwork can impede learning. Interview and questionnaire data concerning these gaps was collected from 45 undergraduate students and 12 faculty members and instructional staff members at UW. Students were compensated with half a credit towards their applicable psychology course. Faculty members and lecturers were from the following departments:

  • School of Accounting and Finance
  • Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • Management Sciences
  • Communication Arts
  • School of Public Health and Health Systems
  • Centre for Teaching Excellence
  • Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
  • Sociology and Legal Studies
  • Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business

In addition to conducting these interviews, literature on student teamwork KSAs was reviewed. Following the ADDIE training model, training needs will be articulated, and training approaches will be suggested to enable later, full-scale implementation and evaluation of needs-responsive teamwork education and training.

Research Team

Jay (John) Michela, Ph.D., is a tenured associate professor and area head for the Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology graduate program at UW. His research concerns (1) Skill gaps and other challenges for effective teamwork in university courses; (2) Identity congruence as a key factor in attraction to entrepreneurial and other emerging careers; (3) Joint contributions toward acquisition of professional competencies from co-op work experience, course content, and students’ motivation for self-development. Jay’s contributions to various books or book series include chapters in the Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture and the Annual Review of Psychology. His journal articles have appeared in the Journal of Product Innovation Management, Organizational Research Methods, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, among others. He founded and now serves as director of the Waterloo Organizational Research and Consulting Group (WORC Group), which provides consulting services regionally and internationally. He is learning to play Akai’s electronic wind instrument (EWI).

Erica Naccarato is a second year MASc student in the I-O Psychology at UW. Her research concerns the operation of mental models and decision-making processes in entrepreneurship. Erica holds a B.A. in Psychology from Ryerson University. She currently is both a full-time graduate student and full-time Assistant Coach for the Waterloo Warriors Varsity Women's Volleyball Team.

Roxy Merkand is a second year Master of Applied Science student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of Waterloo. Her master’s research aims to understand how one’s sense of identity may work as a motivational factor when making career-related decisions, primarily with Entrepreneurship and User Experience (UX) careers. Roxy holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology from McMaster University. She currently works as a Career Leader at the Centre for Career Action, with particular interest in how individuals with disabilities engage in job search. She has a Bichon Frise puppy named Frankie.

Grant Stebner is a first year MASc candidate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at UW. His research concerns the development of professional competencies including "soft," people skills. He completed his undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and has travelled across Canada several times as a touring musician.

Questions investigated

What gaps in teamwork knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) do students and instructors
observe at the University of Waterloo?

Within our overall research project, this question is situated within the ADDIE scheme for designing education and training (Thacker & Blanchard, 2006). “A” in ADDIE is “Analysis.” We conceptualized our study as a needs Analysis that can provide crucial input to the remaining stages of the ADDIE scheme: Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of education and training for developing teamwork KSAs.


Faculty members identified the following gaps in students’ teamwork knowledge, skills, and
abilities, organized from most to least mentioned:

  • Interpersonal Relations (83.3%)
  • Commitment (66.7%)
  • Leadership (58.3%)
  • Time Management of the Group (50%)
  • Self-Management (50%)
  • Communication (50%)
  • Assertiveness (50%)
  • Organization (16.7%)
  • Technical and Project-Specific Knowledge (8.3%)
  • Open-Mindedness (8.3%)

Students identified the following gaps in either their own or their teams’ teamwork knowledge,
skills, and abilities, organized from most to least mentioned:

  • Commitment (55.6%)
  • Communication (46.7%)
  • Self-Management (40%)
  • Time Management of the Group (37.8%)
  • Leadership (35.6%)
  • Assertiveness (33.3%)
  • Interpersonal Relations (28.9%)
  • Open-Mindedness (24.4%)
  • Technical and Project-Specific Knowledge (22.2%)
  • Organization (6.7%)

Our presentations and writings detail the nature of these gaps with examples. Implications for the contents and methods of education and training for teamwork KSAs have been drawn. (These contents and methods are components of some of the later stages after needs analysis in the ADDIE scheme.)

We also tried to draw instructors’ attention to areas in which their perceptions may be faulty
relative to the areas in which the actual team members’ (students’) responses imply greatest need
for education, training, or other supports. For example, because instructors are called upon to
address interpersonal issues when these are problematic, instructors may overemphasize the need
for education and training in this area relative to other areas.

Areas of noteworthy student-instructor agreement about prevalent issues include self-management
and group management (time management of the group). Our further presentations
offer education and training suggestions, based on project management methods.
Actually, the PI had previously and independently come to believe that teamwork education or
training in this these areas should be a priority, yet he was careful not to bias the graduate
assistant interviewers or coders to reach this same view when the interview protocol was
designed, and the resulting data were coded.

Dissemination and impact

  • At the Department/School and/or Faculty/Unit levels: Our research group (the PI, J. Michela, and some of the graduate students who worked as assistants on this project) were in ongoing discussion with instructors at Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance about their efforts to promote what CPA Canada calls “enabling competencies”—which include teamwork prominently. We do not yet have joint products to supply or cite here. However, it may be of interest that after our previous LITE grant produced
    documentation of positive effects on learning from an online form of teamwork training that we
    had produced, at least two courses at the AFM School adopted that training. Therefore, we
    expect there is at least this local interest in what we have learned from the present study.
  • At the institutional (uWaterloo) level: We have presented a poster at the TLC conference in 2019.
  • At the provincial, national and/or international levels: After preparing the TLC poster and discussing it with interested colleagues at that conference, we intend to produce and submit a research report to a suitable journal in higher education.

Impact of the project:

  • Teaching: Our use of student teams is in the context of blended learning with in-class, active learning (team assignments confined to class periods). Therefore, some of the common teamwork issues are less
    acute than they may be with longer-term projects that require sustained efforts by all team
    members in a potentially complex structure of differentiated roles. Nevertheless, we are intrigued
    by the prevalence of “open-mindedness” as an issue. Students can get stuck on their own ideas or
    approaches even in the context of a short-term assignment. We assessed the prevalence of
    this issue in our context and developed training and coaching responses.
  • Involvement in other activities or projects: Our team has been directly involved in considering what
    more can be done for development teamwork competencies or other professional competencies
    among AFM students.
  • Connections with people from different departments, faculties, and/or disciplines about teaching and learning: We cited Hurst et al. (2016) whose work at UW, on teamwork among engineering students, suggests they are also likely to be interested as well in the findings from our study and in the larger framing in terms of the ADDIE model (which, itself, is essentially an engineering model applied to education and training). We made initial contact with that group in connection with the 2018 UW Teaching and Learning Conference.


Project Reference List (PDF)

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