Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title MSci Team Project - Guidelines for Students on Working In Teams
Originator Tony Kemp
Department Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, UK
Tel. +44 (0)117 9545416
Fax +44 (0)117 9253385

The following illustrates the guidelines given to students working in teams for an MSci project:

Working as a scientist for any organisation you will almost always be working on projects where you are part of a moderately sized team. In this team you will often be the only expert in your area, perhaps the only geologist. Other members of the team might be biologists, engineers, applied mathematicians or lawyers. In industry, teams often have 4-10 members; if they get any larger they tend to be broken into smaller units for the sake of efficiency.

If you were working on, for example, a large construction project such as the siting of a bridge or power station you would need several kinds of expert. You would need a geologist to work on the geological suitability of the area, a separate person to look at the impact on the natural environment, another to look at the social impacts on the population, another to work on transport infrastructure etc.. We want each of you to play a different role, i.e. each person should become an expert on a different part of the problem.

In real life everyone has to do their job thoroughly, and there would be a Team Leader who would make sure that this has happened. If team members don't perform, then it's down to the Job Centre next week! In this exercise you have the choice to nominate your Team Leader or to work collectively without one. In either case you will need regular meetings to make sure that everyone knows how each part is progressing and to provide feedback and suggestions to one another. Meetings are necessary to build team spirit and confidence in one another.

It is very important that, at meetings, everyone is prepared to make constructive comments and suggestions. Simply whinging or keeping quiet when you know that the project is going in the wrong direction would have you associated with a disaster - not good for your career prospects.

Real life teams don't decide halfway through that person X is not pulling his or her weight so we'll work without him or tell her to do her own report. In real life you have to work with the people you've got. If people aren't performing properly then they have to be pushed, led or guided into the job expected of them.

Report writing is never left to the night before the contract finishes. At one of the early meetings the team would decide roughly which chapters will be needed and everyone would be assigned responsibility for writing part of it. There would be a requirement to produce a draft well before the deadline; in this case it is suggested you give yourselves a draft deadline 2 weeks before the final deadline. This gives plenty of time for discussion, further research and rewriting before final submission. If someone doesn't produce their bit then the other team members will have to cover for him or her. In real life this would mean a rapid exit from the company.

In real life teams don't divide marks between team members on the basis of who they thought did most work. The project is either a success for everyone or unsuccessful for everyone. In this spirit there will be no competition for marks. Each team member will get the same mark; it is up to you to maximise that mark collectively.


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Page created 5 June 2000
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