Students hands form a lightbulb to illustrate teamwork and group work.

Tandem tool helps students work better in teams

Group work got you down? This university developed a tool that helps boost students' performance in teamwork situations

Whether in high school or college, most of us have experienced the frustration of group work. There often is at least one student who doesn’t pull her weight, leaving the rest to pick up the slack. Then there is that person who takes over. He doesn’t allow anyone else to be heard.

Sometimes it happens in the workplace. There it can have serious consequences, however: lack of recognition or advancement or even termination for those who can’t participate effectively on teams.

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Hoping to help students before they reach advanced classes where they work in design teams, and before they leave the university to join corporate groups, three University of Michigan Engineering faculty members and the Center for Academic Innovation have developed and are testing a high-tech tool to help students build skills in research, communication and teamwork.

“By the time we find out about a problem on a team at the end of a class it’s too late. My heart goes out to students because two teammates have disappeared and their grades depend on it. It’s easy for one bad team experience to sour their entire thoughts on teamwork,” said Laura Alford, lecturer and research investigator in naval architecture and marine engineering.