Enhancing student team effectiveness

Awardees: David Wilkins (HLS), Scott Westfahl (HLS)

Summary: Awardees plan to use online assessments to improve team effectiveness and provide students with informative feedback about their role as team members.

All Harvard Law School students take the Problem Solving Workshop (PSW), working in teams of five on all course assignments, in the winter term of their first year. In 2013, Professors David Wilkins and Scott Westfahl introduced an online assessment tool within their PSW section in an effort to enhance the effectiveness of the student teams through individual and team assessment components by providing students both a theoretical framework and direct practical application for working in teams.

They provided the 5 Dynamics assessment to all 80 students in their section prior to the start of the course to help them understand the particular strengths they bring to working in teams, as well as a customized team assessment to the 20 teams. The tool is able to suggest strategies and provide examples, which Wilkins and Westfahl discuss with individuals and teams, to maximize effectiveness relative to four key team functions: exciting, exploring, examining and executing.

The PSW team-based experience is already a significant opportunity for preparing law students for the types of team experiences they will face after graduation in whatever professional direction they choose. The online team assessment tool further sharpened students’ collaborative skills by helping them to acknowledge, leverage, and appreciate each of their strengths.