American employers struggle to find qualified workers with well-developed interpersonal, teamwork, leadership, communication, critical thinking, technical, and computer skills.
The inter-professional skills—interpersonal, teamwork, and communication skills—gap is particularly problematic, with 90 percent of employers reporting these skills as equally, or more important than, technical skills. Current educational practices assume,
incorrectly, that these inter-professional skills can be learned through traditional lab and group work. Often these exercises are too discipline-specific, and students are not exposed to the foundational concepts and theories required for successful
interdisciplinary team-based collaboration and communication. A university-wide model has been developed to provide comprehensive training, practice, and evaluation of these lifelong inter-professional skills with the aim of producing better-prepared
UP was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop a teamwork minor. The grant includes funding for faculty to develop interdisciplinary teamwork projects in between existing courses. Mini-grants will be for $1,500–$3,500 for development
and support of these teamwork-intensive-course projects. Funds can be used for supplies and student support related to the development of the “T-Course” interdisciplinary project. Although any discipline can propose a teamwork-intensive course, only
faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be awarded the mini-grant funds. This limitation has been set by the National Science Foundation and is due to their funding constraints. However, non-STEM faculty are encouraged
to apply collaboratively with a STEM faculty member. If you would like to propose a non-STEM-related T-Course, you are still welcome to apply. We would be more than happy to have you join us at the workshop if there are seats available.
The proposed minor uses expert faculty from around the university to teach core inter-professional skills. Students will learn core concepts and theories related to intrapersonal interaction, teamwork, communication, and leadership skills in the minor’s
foundation course sequence: PSYC 161, SOC 161, COMM 261, and LDSP 361. These proposed courses, taken in the student’s first two years, will provide and connect the necessary interpersonal, team, and communication skills to the foundational theories
rooted in their liberal studies content. These courses have been specifically augmented and designed with overlapping content to reinforce core concepts of the minor. Students should apply these skills in your proposed T-Courses and the minor’s capstone.
Although the aim is to have the teamwork-intensive courses (T-Courses) ready for students in the 2019–20 academic year, our committee would like to identify and support the generation of these starting in spring 2017. Funding was conditional upon attendance
at a two-day workshop at IUP (Saturday, March 4–Sunday, March 5, 2017) which will train faculty to recognize and assess effective teamwork and communication.
T-Courses are best suited for the junior year (300-level) to ensure the core courses are completed prior to the T-course and can thus be applied. To provide flexibility to students, the minor does not require them to take a T-Course in their major. However,
if there is a T-Course designation offered in an in-major course (or even to a required course), it will reduce the total number of credits the student needs to complete both their program and the effective teamwork and communication minor.
There is no specific way each T-Course should be developed, and we want to encourage each interdisciplinary project to select methods and logistics that are best for it and the fields involved. Our committee has developed
Guidelines for Teamwork Courses and Projects and have provided
Example T-Courses that can assist faculty in planning and developing their T-Course.
Before developing a T-Course, it is important to differentiate group work from true teamwork. Group work occurs when members of a group divide work that each group member is equally capable of completing to reach group goals. The result of this type of process is often a patchwork of individualized pieces that are combined into a product/deliverable. In true interdisciplinary teamwork, individual team members only have a subset of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to solve a problem and must depend on each other to achieve the desired outcome. True teamwork requires effective communication, sharing of knowledge, and reliable/effective performance of assigned tasks.
After students take their T-Course, they will further refine and reflect on their teamwork and communication skills after their T-Course in the teamwork capstone course. This capstone is in conjunction with a senior research or independent study course.
If you have questions about the application, feel free to contact either Justin Fair (
firstname.lastname@example.org) or William Farrell (
email@example.com). To help faculty complete
the application, our committee has completed and made available a
mock application based on the “Stem Cell-Based Tissue Regeneration: A Drug Discovery Approach” T-Course project.