If you are using teams to support learning, it’s not too early to begin thinking about the end. Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development caps the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages, with adjourning as a last stage. As a major component of adjourning, it’s helpful for students to formally reflect on what they accomplished while working on a team-based project, and to consider how they will use what they have learned in their learning lives going forward.
First, a brief re-cap Tuckman’s initial model of team development, which he introduced in 1965: Tuckman proposed that teams normally progress through four stages as they become more effective in working together to meet their shared goals. In the forming stage, group members are polite, size each other up, and avoid conflict. In the storming phase, there is much conflict, as team members vie for leadership and openly advocate for different approaches for the team to take. In the norming stage, the group begins to pull together, agreeing on the direction to take, and collectively identifying processes for how they will work together. In the performing stage, the team works together effectively and genuinely cares about each other.
The adjourning stage was added in a 1977 follow-up article that Tuckman wrote with Mary Ann Jensen. The authors searched the literature to examine how the original model was being used. They reported on a few adaptations that added a termination phase, which directly addressed the dissolution of the group as part of the project cycle. In extending their work, Tuckman and Jensen then added adjourning as the 5th, concluding stage.
According to Maja Husar Holmes, “Adjourning creates personal connections to course material and generates insights for individuals to use in future opportunities.” As one aspect of bringing closure to the end of a team project and a semester, adjourning activities help students to synthesise what they have learned relate to both course content and to interpersonal, intercultural team communication and process skills.
Below are some adjourning activity suggestions that will encourage students to purposely plan how they will apply the knowledge and skills they learned to future academic and professional – and perhaps personal – endeavours:
Review team accomplishments
Show students just how far they have come during the semester by reviewing what they accomplished with their team projects, tying them specifically to the course outcomes. If students took a background knowledge probe or pre-test at the beginning of the semester, have them take the same test at the end of the semester to quantitatively demonstrate their improvement. Be sure to share these results with students. When you enumerate and describe the skills students have learned in the class, inform them how these skills will benefit them in the future.
Reflect on lessons learned
Ask students to reflect individually on what they have learned during the semester and share their insights. This can be done publicly or privately. One way to do this publicly if the class is small enough, is to have each student choose the most valuable or important thing they learned in the semester. Students can speak briefly, one at a time, taking turns. You may want to allow any students who are uncomfortable with this public reporting to opt out if they choose. Be sure to share your own example with your students.
To do this privately, or with a large class, have students reflect on this question with a brief writing assignment. The act of articulating what was most important to them can help solidify their experiences in the course and bring a sense of closure. It is also rewarding as the instructor to read these pieces after a semester of hard work.
Create take-away mementos
Have students create documents or wikis to identify and categorise best-practices for your subject. For instance in an education course, students might create a shared document with ideas and approaches for leading an effective discussion, grounded in the course literature and their own experience. Frame these documents as resources that they can use in the future.
Celebrate the success of the process
The dissolution of teams may be bittersweet for students. There may be happiness and pride at finishing the course, but sadness at no longer regularly seeing and interacting with ones team mates. A small in-class party might be a fun way to bring closure to the teams. You could ask each student to bring an item of food or drink, thus creating a communal, celebratory atmosphere. This also provides the opportunity for students to make plans to get together with classmates in the future, perhaps even forming collaborations that last beyond the course.
Allow students to acknowledge the support they got from each other
This is an activity I learned from Ilene Alexander. Provide a few moments in class for students to stand up and approach 2 – 3 classmates to thank them for any help or insight they may have provided for their progress and learning in the class. This social experience is a nice way to end the class period, and the semester, on a positive note.
Abudi, G. (2010). The Five Stages of Project Team Development, The.Project. Managment.Hut, accessed 31 October, 2014. http://www.pmhut.com/the-five-stages-of-project-team-development
Holmes, M. H. (2010). Modeling Team-Development Lifecycle in Public Administration Courses, Journal of Public Affairs Education, 16(1), 53-66. http://188.8.131.52/JPAEMessenger/Article/jpae-v16n1/jpae-v16n1-all.pdf#page=59
Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, Psychological Bulletin, (63)6, 384-399. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/63/6/384/
Tuckman, B. W. & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group & Organization Management, 2(4), 419-427. http://www.freewebs.com/group-management/BruceTuckman%281%29.pdf