I have been thinking quite a bit about this topic of holding student’s responsible for their own learning. I had a recent experience with an undergraduate class of seniors that is making me really think about revisions I need to make to the course for future semesters. My expectations of the students in the course seem reasonable to me. I expected them to take it upon themselves to learn the basics about the concepts presented in the course by reading the text, practicing the application of the concepts through the use of the online homework manager, and also to research the topics beyond what the textbook offered. I provided links to websites, YouTube videos, databases, etc.
The class was divided into teams of 4-5 students. Each team was to support one another, discuss the topics with each other to help them learn the concepts. Then, as a team, they were to complete some type of activity that applied the concepts in the unit. The team activities were case studies, a debate, drafting a memo with recommendations to solve a problem, etc. Additionally, the teams were not to complete the team activity until all members of the team had completed the individual learning activities in the unit (ex/pr in the online homework manager, discussions, etc.).
At the beginning of the class, the teams met and decided on a schedule of the completion of the coursework. This is where the problems began. While some students jumped into the discussion forums and set up their teams before the semester even began, others seemed paralyzed by this and took the entire first week to establish their teams. The late-comers found it very difficult to communicate and devise a schedule for completion of the work. The teams that struggled in the very beginning struggled throughout the course.
I know that these graduates will be expected to work in teams and to manage projects in the workplace; therefore, this seems to me a worthwhile thing to teach them. But how do I communicate the importance of this skill to students? How do I incorporate this into a class with better results? How do I motivate students to work in teams?