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Spring 2021


As one teacher commented, the “Team as Support” system comes naturally to our
students.   They LOVE to be of service to each other and they can often be more
effective than their professors!  Teaching with my students supported by their teams
has changed teaching for me because at the same time that it helps students academically,
it trains them in being good and loving and responsible human beings as well as in 
effective collaboration.  It has made teaching more meaningful and fulfilling to me.
And within this moment of a global pandemic and the isolation that devastates this
age group, “team as support” is lifesaving.For the last five years now, students write to me that this system of
“Teams as Support” has made their course work “fun”.  This was important to me because
I aim for a certain rigour in my courses and sometimes worry that the level of analysis

I require can tire and even bore them!

Below are attachments that will be helpful in implementing this system.


1. Overview of this Teamwork system

2. Instructions for Teamwork  – for instructor and also distributed to students.

3. Team Leader Possibility

4. Outgoing Team Leader Report

5. Google article  (I am sending this in a separate email)

6. Google article take-home exam

7. Teamwork in-class or homework writing exercise.

8. Teamwork end of semester questionnaire (numerical)

Eng 92 Quiz on Google article IRB Questionnaire Outgoing Team Leader Report Team Leader Possibility Team Questionnaire TEAMWORK – instructions for teamwork Teamwork FIG description


Session 1

March 18th 

Present:   Lea Fridman, Midori Yamamura,  MaryLynn Navarro, JoAnne Meyers.

At our first session, we referred to the attached “Instructions for Teamwork.”   This document provides an overview of “Teamwork
as Support” that is important for teachers and also useful to distribute and discuss with students at the outset of the semester.  It is attached below.

We reviewed key elements of this system all of which are framed within a concept of “support” and of making a difference in the lives of teammates:

1. the use of permanent teams. (many teachers find organizing teams alphabetically easiest for record keeping).
2. Teams create a team name and create “chats” on WhatsApp or any platform of their choicer
3. a weekly rotating Team Leader
4. guiding concepts of support;  of possibility;  and of breakdown and breakthrough.

We spoke about two more important points.  We talked about the research by Google and others that show that the level of trust created within a team is the best predictor of performance.  Where teammates trust one another and are comfortable reaching out, students will have stronger academic outcomes.  Support, generosity and non-judgment within teams enhances the academic success of students

We also spoke about the concepts of breakdown and breakthrough. Screwing up on an exam or as a team (or even as a professor) in small and big ways is simply part of life.  But teaching students to take charge of a “breakdown,”  to identify what went wrong, to identify what actions are needed for a real and meaningful “breakthrough,”  this is an invaluable lesson.  If a student can recognize that they failed a quiz, not because they are a poor student but because of a time management issue, this is invaluable knowledge that requires action and that can lead to breakthroughs beyond the quiz to other areas of life.

Session 2: Team as Support

April 7        

Present: Marta Cabral (Staten Island);  Amy Haas (KCC);  Lea Fridman (KCC);  Kristine Polizzotto (KCC);  Midori Yamamura (KCC)
Teachers who use “Team as Support” will find their students, at the end of the semester, very happy with the approach. Universally students will say that “Team as Support” made their class more fun.   But it also means a commitment on the part of the professor to continually find ways to support teamwork and “Team as Support.”
“Team as Support” grew out of two intensive trainings that Lea took:  Team Based Learning which is widely recognized across the academy and the Landmark Team Management and Leadership Program, an approach to teamwork that has been adopted by the largest and most innovative businesses including Apple, Google and more.  Lea’s approach incorporates elements of both within a model that emphasizes support.  This element – the emphasis on “team as support” – has improved the success of the team in her classes over a number of years.
The role of the Team Leader is especially important. Students take this role seriously and put their hearts into it and into
supporting one another, which is the purpose of everyone in the team being on the team chat.  The Outgoing Team Leader Report which is sent to the professor at the end of the week of leadership, is especially revealing. In it, the Team Leader assesses their team and writes about their own creative interventions in their team. Teachers find that they get a glimpse into what is going on beyond the “walls” of their classroom.
How does a professor support teamwork in cases where a team is not functioning well or a student is reluctant to be a Team Leader? Lea simply tells the student that teamwork and taking a turn at being the Team Leader is written into the syllabus of the course and is a requirement.  Overall, she saw reluctant students, especially the shy ones, blossom.
It is not easy to deal with a team that is in breakdown or functioning at less than capacity.  But that is actually a moment of opportunity, a moment to sit down (or zoom) with a team and ask what is going on – in a non-judgmental way.   Given our student body, the issues often involve work and responsibilities of various kinds.  Where there is breakdown, in other words, that is the space for extra support, exploration, empathy.  In some cases, the students of that team may do better if they move over to other teams that are more active.  In one case, students in a team that was in “breakdown” refused to move to other teams and
started working together in powerful ways.  They eventually became the top team in that class.
It is important to create team-based assignments and break-out rooms in zoom classes in order to foster and encourage teamwork. We look forward to sharing ideas for such assignments at our meetings.

Session 3

April 29th
We talked the role of the Team Leader and Amy Haas shared her outline of the Team Leader’s responsibilities with us (see attachment above). Teachers will tweak this as they need to,  but this is useful clarification to students about what it means to be a Team Leader.
We shared methods of dealing with inevitable issues that arise in a teamwork setting: when a Team Leader is awol; when there is less than optimal communication going on within a team. Can these situations become opportunities?   Can “breakdowns” in a team (big or small) be the path to a far more meaningful “Breakthrough”?   How?
At this moment of global crisis, when students do not come through for their teams, whether
they are or are not leading their team, we teach our students to withhold judgment, to ask a question
(“What happened?”  “Are you OK”) and to take initiative in offering support.   Recently I asked
all of my students in a zoom class to write about one way their team had contributed to them
or one way that they had contributed to their team.  We read them all out loud so that everyone
could hear and learn from one another.  It only took a few minutes but I was surprised
and heart warmed by what they wrote (especially about the human warmth provide by teammates
to one another during the pandemic).
We meet next at 3 pm on May 20 at our link below. I am also attaching a questionnaire for students.  I think it will be very productive to compare notes when it comes to responses to these questions.  Please consider asking your students
to respond to them.   This can be distributed any time that works best for your students before
our meeting May 20.  See my attachment below.
Meeting ID: 246 101 7952
Host: Lea Fridman
Participant ID: 749635
Passcode: nodoseha12

That would be a breakdown?

TBL (team based learning):


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