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Journal of Leadership Education

  • JOLE 2023 Special Issue
  • Editorial Staff
  • 20th Anniversary Issue
  • Case Study: Student Perceptions of Groups & Teams in Leadership Education

 Natalie Coers, Marianne Lorensen, M.Ed., James C. Anderson II, Ph.D. 10.12806/V8/I1/RF1


This qualitative study emerged out of a desire to improve the course, Leadership in Groups and Teams, by gaining a better understanding of student perceptions of group and team experiences in classroom settings. In particular, this course centered on learning about group and team processes from a research-based text, hypothetical case studies, and practical application on the part of the students via a semester-long group/team project. The use of interviews as a qualitative methodology allowed the researchers to gain narrative responses from students regarding these perceptions and experiences. Interviewing students regarding group or team projects within a course can provide valuable insight to structural and contextual information needed for successful integration of group or team projects in that particular course.

The students enrolled in the class were divided into groups of four to six members based on expressed interest in specific areas of service (i.e., environmental issues, education, agriculture, etc.) and finalized by the instructors within the first two weeks of class. In this way, both students and instructors had some input into the creation of the groups. This provided some structure for the students and also allowed them some degree of choice. Students remained in their groups for the duration of the term. Although the central focus was their semester project, they also worked with their groups on class activities, presentations, quizzes, and case studies. In this way, they were fully immersed in the group/team experience. Two textbooks were used to provide a contextual and practical base of knowledge in groups and teams: Daniel Levi’s (2007) Group Dynamics for Teams, 2nd edition , and Patrick Lencioni’s (2002) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team . Students were challenged to connect course concepts to their group/team project via three individual reflection papers and three group/team project reports, in addition to the final group/team project portfolio and presentation. The data gained from this particular study was intended to help improve the course, and it also has broader implications for utilizing groups and teams within leadership education.

The Learning Environment

The learning environment of a traditional lecture-based class model utilized at universities across the country is not, in and of itself, sufficient to encompass the active learning styles of today’s students. Bobbitt, Inks, Kemp, and Mayo (2000) explained, “While it is noted that lectures have a place in the learning environment, it is clear that lectures alone are not the most effective pedagogy for universities” (p. 15). Although most scholars support the efficacy of group and team-based learning in the classroom, the actual practice of the pedagogy is limited at institutions of higher education (Rassuli & Manzer, 2005; Bobbitt et al., 2000). Bobbitt, et al. further noted that, “The structural shift toward teams that is occurring in many businesses should be reflected in today’s classroom training” (p. 16). Holter (1994) noted that the opportunity exists for group and team work to be used in a complementary way with lecture-based courses as an effective means of learning and applying higher order thinking skills. Rassuli and Manzer (2005) asserted that team learning modules can take on various forms depending upon the educational discipline, the objective for the instructor’s use of groups and teams in a course, and the instructor’s creativity. Although challenging, Smith and MacGregor (1992) emphasized the flexibility and adaptability of cooperative learning to any academic discipline. As the educational paradigm shifts to a focus on student development (Rassuli and Manzer, 2005), it is the responsibility of educators to provide those experiences that will enable students to become leaders in our changing society (Ricketts, Bruce & Ewing, 2008). The responsibility, however, is two-fold. The educator must provide the opportunities for students to gain knowledge and experience while the student must take the initiative to learn and apply the knowledge gained. Bobbitt, et al. (2000) emphasized, “Too often, students receive instruction on the important concepts and theories in one course, only to move on to the concepts and theories of another course without even considering the integration of material learned previously” (p. 16). Group work is designed to allow students to learn from one another and be actively engaged in one another’s learning process (Rassuli & Manzer, 2005). Ricketts, et al. (2008) discovered that students are not making connections between group work in the classroom and the rising use of teamwork in the “real world” – a necessary connection considering the trend for leadership through collaboration and cooperation. Astin and Astin (2000) noted that “our rapidly changing society desperately needs skilled leaders who are able to address complex issues, build bridges, and heal divisions” (p. 31). Students need to take responsibility for their learning in order to effectively lead our diverse generation of scholars and workers.

Student and Instructor Roles

For effective team-based learning to occur, instructors and students alike must change their teaching and learning methods. According to Barbour (2006), “To educate future leaders in a post-modern era, instructors must attempt nontraditional teaching methods that combine theories and practices of team leadership” (p. 28). Simply, students actively involved in the learning process via sharing and helping others will have a deeper knowledge of that subject matter (Knabb, 2000). Smith and MacGregor (1992) identified collaborative learning as an effective means for instructors and students to create an intellectual synergy while addressing and clarifying challenging issues and topics – achieving higher learning in the process. Higher levels of learning are important considerations from the instructional standpoint, but there are other benefits that come to the student through groups and teams. “A benefit accrued through cooperative learning and not individual assignments is the enhancement of students’ interpersonal skills through learning to work with students of various backgrounds, work ethic, and problem-solving styles” (Bobbitt, et al., 2000, p. 16). Barbour (2006) also mentioned that students are provided the opportunity to take on various group roles in order that they may gain a full perspective on the process of team building.

From the instructional standpoint, Attle and Baker (2007) emphasized the required commitment and detail in developing a fitting cooperative learning experience. For success with groups and teams in the classroom, Barbour (2006) suggested that “an instructor must be able to understand, model, and lead group processes, which includes the roles all team members will play and the dynamic of team members within those roles” (pp. 32-33). At the same time, students must hold one another accountable and be actively engaged in their learning (Haberyan, 2007). Michaelsen (2004) noted that “students should stay in the same group for the entirety of the semester. Although even a single well-designed group assignment usually produces a variety of positive outcomes, it is only when students work together over time that they become cohesive enough to evolve into self-managed and truly effective learning teams” (p. 30). Barbour (2006) also noted that leader follow-through and active participation from all group members lead to the greatest team success. Michaelsen (2004) stressed that groups must be properly formed and managed, students must be made accountable (for both individual and group work), assignments must promote both learning and team development, and students must receive frequent and immediate feedback on their progress.

Impacts on Student Perception

Outside events that go beyond the confines of a classroom make a strong impact on student teams (Weeks & Kelsey, 2007). Kreie, Headrick, and Steiner (2007) noted this via the end of course evaluation forms. “Many students indicated that they liked working in teams, but – not surprisingly – a few expressed frustration with teammates who did not show up for team activities or did not actively participate” (p. 55). Pauli, Mohiyeddini, Bray, Michie, and Street (2008) discussed several issues that may be faced in group and team settings, including motivation, logistics, and other personal or process issues. “Insofar as students are concerned, attitudes in the classroom are an important consideration in shaping the perceptions of the effectiveness of the team-learning method” (Rassuili & Manzer, 2005, p. 26). Group time and commitment are also issues potentially impacting student perceptions (Tan, Ivy, Sharan, & Lee, 2007). Su’s (2007) work explored the preferences students have for team learning in the classroom based upon individual abilities. A significant difference was found between the three identified levels of ability in the expressed preference for team-based learning.

Lower ability correlated with the highest preference, medium ability noted a lower preference, and high ability expressed the lowest preference for team-based learning. These influences on student perception hold valuable information to understanding the student perspective on group and team work in the classroom, and to improving this pedagogy used in leadership education.

Continued Evaluation

Many researchers call for more qualitative, longitudinal studies to explore the impact of leadership education (DiPaolo, 2008). Lamont and Friedman (1997) asserted the need for regular curriculum review to ensure the needs of students are being met and faculty talents and interests are being utilized. Student feedback is a natural and necessary tool for improving the effectiveness of curriculum (Duke & Reese, 1995). Given the present American colleges and universities, Blackwell, Cummins, Townsend, and Cummings (2007) emphasized that qualitative research is needed in order to effectively utilize the “opportunity to coalesce theory and experience in a learning environment” (p. 40). Such research would enrich the understanding of student perceptions and ultimately strengthen leadership education programs and the use of groups and teams in the educational setting.

After concluding that individual ability impacted student perception of team- based learning, Su (2007) emphasized the need for deeper study of student perceptions of team-based learning using both quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand impacting factors and create a better educational experience for students.

In an effort to enhance the understanding of student perceptions among educators that are currently using or considering the use of groups and teams as a classroom component, the researchers embarked on a qualitative case study. The objectives of this study are as follows: (a) to determine what kinds of perceptions exist among students regarding the use of groups and teams in the classroom setting and (b) to determine if participation in the particular course, Leadership in Groups and Teams, has an impact on students’ perceptions of groups and teams in an educational setting.

Methods and Data Collection

Participants in this case study were undergraduate students enrolled in Leadership in Groups and Teams for the spring 2008 semester. The course had 20 students enrolled, 15 female and 5 male; of those enrolled, 10 females and 4 males volunteered to participate in the study. Participants were aware that they could opt out of the study at any point throughout the semester without negative consequence to their success in the course. Participants each signed an informed consent and were also given the option to provide written reflection pieces as part of data collection for the research. Although some written reflections were collected, inconsistency in submissions resulted in the decision not to use them as formal data in the study.

A series of three interviews was conducted and audio recorded throughout the semester with each participant. The first round of interviews was conducted early in the semester, followed by the second shortly after spring break, and the final interview occurred at the conclusion of the semester. The timing of the interviews allowed researchers to examine whether participation in the course was impacting the participants’ perceptions of working in groups and teams as the course and group projects evolved. Round 1 interviews provided the researchers with foundational data from each participant with regard to perceptions based on previous experiences with groups and teams in the educational setting, as each answered the following questions:

  • Tell me about your experiences with groups and teams in the classroom setting.
  • Have you had group/team experiences that are positive/negative? (Based on the response from question one above.)
  • When you enter a new class and discover that group or team work is a part of the course expectations, what is your reaction? Why?
  • When was the first time you recall working in a group/team for a class?
  • How often have you had to work in a group or team for a class?
  • What is the number of college courses you have taken that utilized group/team work for class?
  • Do you like working in a group or team for class? Why or why not?
  • What role do you typically take when working in a group or team? Why?
  • What do you expect of others in a group or team?
  • Why did you enroll in this course, Leadership in Groups and Teams?
  • What do you hope to learn or gain in this course?

The second round of interviews served as a check point slightly after mid- semester to determine whether previous perceptions and tendencies were present or had changed, as well as how and whether the participants demonstrated retention and application of course content. The following questions were posed during the second round of interviews:

  • What information learned from the course readings is most helpful to you in groups and teams?
  • What stage do you think your group in currently in?
  • What leadership styles/strategies do you observe in your group?
  • What perspective do you view your group in (group or project based)?
  • What concerns do you have with the groups and teams project for this course?
  • How/Do you plan to address these issues?
  • Is social loafing present in your group or team? Why or why not?
  • Who are the other high contributors in your group?
  • What role are you taking in the group project? Is this consistent with your typical role?
  • How cohesive is your group? Why?
  • Reflect on your experience with your group/team in this course. In what ways was it similar to experiences you have had with other class related groups/team?
  • In what ways was it different?
  • What are the most important things you have learned from your group/team experience in this course?
  • How might what you have learned be useful to you in future group/team experiences?
  • Do you think that reading the texts for the course had an impact on the way you engaged with your group/team (as opposed to the manner in which you have engaged with other class-related groups and teams)?
  • If so, how?
  • If not, why not?
  • Consider your group/team at the end of the semester. In what stage of group and or project development do you think your group ended the course?
  • Why do you think so?
  • Is this a logical progression, in light of what you know about group and or project development from your course readings?
  • Why or why not?
  • What material from the texts was most useful to you in your group/team?
  • What material from the texts was most useful to you in other groups and team experiences (now and or in the future)?
  • What did you like most about the way this course was structured?
  • What would you change about the way this course was structured?
  • Do you think that participating in this course has changed your perceptions of working in groups or teams?
  • If so, how has it changed your perceptions?
  • Has participating in this course reinforced any of your previously held perceptions of working in groups or teams?
  • If so, what perceptions has it reinforced?
  • Do you have any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share?

The questions posed in each interview provided a framework for students to express their thoughts about current and past group or team experiences. Participants were not limited on time for any response, which allowed for as little or as much information to be disclosed by the participant. If needed, participants could ask for clarification of any question. Following the interviews, the researchers reviewed the recordings to compile data based on the responses, coded responses, and transcribed components of the interviews for analysis.

Round 1 Interviews

From the original 14 participants that began this study, 11 completed the series of three interviews. Participants in the Round 1interviews provided insight regarding a positive or negative perception held, like or dislike of working in groups/teams, and made reference to themselves as a hard worker and concerns of social loafing among others. Seven participants involved in the Round 1 interviews indicated a positive perception of groups and teams, where four perceived them as negative. Also, one participant qualified both a positive and negative perception and one participant listed positive perceptions, but said groups and teams “can be difficult.” It is also noteworthy that one participant mentioned never having had a negative groups and teams experience.

When recalling the first time participating in a group or team, four participants identified kindergarten or elementary school as the time when that occurred; three identified middle school or junior high; one identified high school; and four experienced their first class-related group/team in college. One individual that identified college, also recalled high school experiences in groups/teams, but could not provide an example of a specific experience. Participants then estimated the number of college courses taken where groups and teams were utilized. The responses ranged from two to 15 courses with an average of seven. One participant did not provide an estimated number of courses, but answered that “most courses” the student had taken in college required group/team work.

Participants also discussed whether they liked working in groups and teams for class. Nine participants said they liked working in groups and teams, while two said they did not. Within the nine positive responses, three participants conditioned their responses to be dependent upon the task assigned (group paper versus activity) or the academic level of the course (general curriculum versus major concentration area). The researchers noted that the participants who disliked groups and teams in the educational setting also discussed having had mostly negative experiences or rationalized their dislike of groups and teams. Participants also identified self-perceived roles within groups and teams. Three participants identified themselves as a “leader”; three as “organizers” or “facilitators”; one as “in charge”; and, four as other roles (such as “scribe” or “pleaser”).

Although a question was not directly posed to the participants relating to self- perception as a hard worker or issues dealing with social loafing (an individual putting forth less effort in the group setting than if the task were only to be completed individually), the researchers observed the emergence of these issues throughout the interviews (Barr, Dixon, & Gassenheimer, 2005). During five interviews social loafing was implicitly mentioned as a main concern in groups and teams. Also, in four instances, responses to the questions in this round of interviews lent themselves to support self perception as a strong contributor in groups and teams (i.e., mention of personal high standards or high expectations). To avoid issues of social loafing or one individual carrying a significant portion of the work, emphasis should be placed on all group participants doing their part, regardless of assigned or attributive role within the group (Payne, Monk-Turner, Smith, & Sumter, 2006).

In looking at reasons for course enrollment, the participants tended to merge the final two questions of the interview (reason for enrollment and what participant hopes to gain from the course); therefore, the emergent themes were taken from the combined final two questions. Students enrolled in Leadership in Groups and Teams for four main reasons: (a) general interest in the topic (6), (b) self- awareness (7), (c) skill development (8), and (d) a positive impression of the course or instructor (based on word of mouth and/or prior experience in a course taught by the same instructor) (7).

Round 2 Interviews

Participants were interviewed a second time approximately one-half way through the semester so that researchers could gain insight on group developmental progress and the impact of course content. Students identified their personal roles taken on in the course project. Four recognized themselves as a facilitator or organizer and seven identified with other roles which were primarily task related, such as writing reports or securing event locations. However, no participants identified themselves as the group leader and no participants claimed to be in charge. These role identifications differed from the previous interviews presumably as a result of the projects being underway and group dynamics at work. These factors would potentially result in a difference between what an individual expressed in the first round of interviews when compared the actions now being taken, especially when consideration is given to other team member roles. At this interview time, only three participants (two having previously expressed this concern in the first interview) mentioned social loafing as an issue or continued concern. This may mean that some of the student’s previously held concerns in this regard did not continue in this team project.

Other concerns regarding the group project were also expressed, including the main concerns mentioned by nine of the participants were task-related, such as securing a location or ensuring promotional materials were completed and dispersed. Further concerns identified were accountability/trust, commitment, and communication. Some of these other concerns may arise from the variable group dynamics and level of cohesion among the members. Six participants said group cohesion was moderate and four participants experienced high group cohesion. However, increased instructor facilitation and structure of a group project could minimize communication and task-related issues within a group (Barbour, 2006; Payne, et al., 2006).

Participants were also asked whether their groups were more demonstrative of group development models (such as Tuckman and Jensen) or project development models (such as McGrath or Ancona and Caldwell) as discussed within the course content. Participants were also asked, depending on the model they selected, to note the stage in which their group was currently functioning. Five students identified with the group development model and utilized the respective stages of development in their stage description. However, the remaining seven students identified their groups with the project development model and then subsequently utilized the group development model for describing the current stage of development (forming, performing, creation, resolution). To the researchers, this demonstrated that participants may not have retained course content focused on project development models.

Even though some course content such as that pertaining to group and task development models may not have been fully retained (Kemp & Seagraves, 1995), participants did identify course content topics that were helpful to them in the class and with groups outside of the class. Participants noted helpful aspects including (a) three participants mentioned that information about group conflict was helpful, (b) three found content on group communication most valuable, (c) one participant identified cooperation and competition content as useful, (d) three found most benefit to be sections of the course focused on decision making and problem solving, and (e) three identified team building or group development content as helpful to their work in groups and teams.

One participant expressed realization of the impact of the course content, stating “I think learning about the stages of development and seeing that anything else can be applied to that for the most part, like conflict and working as a team as a whole, you can understand what stage you’re in and when you’re adjusting … and understanding that it’s okay to have conflict in a group and that it can promote creativity in a team.”

Another participant emphasized the importance of understanding the role of conflict: “I think the material that’s been most salient or important has to do with group conflict. Initially, that was a topic that really didn’t concern me, but having six members and six different types of personalities and different ways of thinking certainly creates conflict. Because we’re so diverse, (learning about conflict and how to deal with it) has really helped us out.”

It was evident that the particular topics covered in this course, such as conflict, communication, cooperation and competition, decision making or problem solving, and team building or group development, heightened the students’ awareness of what is expected in a group or team setting.

Round 3 Interviews

The final round of interviews was conducted at the end of the semester, with all group projects completed. Participants were asked to compare and contrast their course project with previous class-related groups and teams experiences. Students primarily noted the differences of their Leadership in Groups and Teams course project: four mentioned the length of the project assignment, noting the semester- long project as different than past experiences of shorter time frames to work on a group project; seven emphasized the social aspect of this project that built trust in the group; and three mentioned the real-life application of the information gained and experience of carrying out a project from inception to implementation.

One of the participants responded, saying, “This was a little different in that we had a specific set goal. There are always going to be—maybe slackers isn’t the right word– but people who aren’t as committed and dedicated as the rest of the team members. That definitely stood out the entire semester … It was different to be studying leadership and trying to apply or pick out things as we went through the process as we were studying it and then applying it (in our group). It helped us change along the way. Change for the better.”

Over the course of this semester project the participants identified with the various stages of group or team development. In the concluding interview, students noted the ending stage of their group or team. Six participants said their group or team reached the final stage of the group development process identified by Tuckman and Jensen (1977) (i.e., adjourning) while three students said their group or team was in the performing stage. One participant believed the group to be in the norming stage and another participant identified the forming stage of development due to various issues within that particular group including members withdrawing from the course approximately one-half way through the project. At the conclusion of the course students related strongly to the Tuckman and Jensen (1977) model of group development.

In the final interview as participants reflected on the group or team experience for the course, they noted (a) a need for improved socialization within their group(s) (5), (b) social loafing as a problem (4), (c) a need for improved communication (3), (d) role confusion (4), and (e) schedule coordination (7).

In the final interview all 11 participants expressed that one or both of the course texts had an impact on the manner in which they interacted within the groups or teams. Also, 10 participants noted that the course experience changed their perception of groups and teams in the classroom setting and this change was expressed as a positive one.

One student expressed a changed perception for the better, noting that this experience proved that there can be effective groups or teams in class. This participant noted that “I know that there can be really effective teams now. I think before that I was always really frustrated with class teams. Not only can there be effective teams, but it’s built. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a process. I guess I thought before that you get a group of people together that work really well together and everything goes well. But now I know that that’s not necessarily true. Effective teams have steps to become that, and sometimes things fall into place; but a lot of times it’s working toward it. I think that’s going to be my biggest take-away, because I know that whatever group I get in to isn’t static and can change. It can be shaped to be more effective, and I can probably help in that process.”

“Time to go through a group process” and an “acceptance of conflict as a normal part of that process” were expressed by the participants as helpful components of this change in perception. Another student also noted the improved perception that came from an understanding of what a team or group should look like and go through based on the knowledge gained from the course material. One participant expressed the impact in this way: “The class was not only about reading and class discussion. We actually went out there and tried to apply. It happens so often that theoretical tools are given to you and you’re told that you can apply them in this and that way, but this was one of the rare occasions where you actually get the tools and the books and discussion and then go out there and see (for yourself).” Another stated, “My idea of leadership has changed. The leader is not the person who tells others what to do. In some cases, yes, but my idea of what a leader has to do has changed. My previous idea that you can just work on a task without knowing others has changed too. So much of what goes on in someone’s personal life will affect the way they function. Their background, culture, everything.” Yet, another indicated that “This course has been different, because I’m not walking away with memorized facts and concepts. I’m walking away with the overall team experience, and that’s definitely something I can apply in grad school or future employment, in the community or at church. Wherever teams are involved.” The researchers greatly benefitted from this insight gained for the course, as well as in general, regarding the perception students held of groups and teams in the classroom.


As a result of this project, the researchers were able to develop some conclusions connected to their original objectives, which are discussed here. Additionally, the researchers came away with some valuable feedback which could be used to modify their course and could also be helpful when devising instructional strategies for other leadership classes.

Objective 1

In exploring the existing student perceptions of group or team work in an educational setting, the researchers discovered a generally positive perception of group work prior to the course. However, the existing perception was dependent upon each student’s prior experiences with group or team work in the classroom. Frequency of group or team experiences in the past, or concurrently during the semester, may also be connected to an individual’s perception. Some students experience burnout or overload of group work that can detract from the value of such an experience with peers in the educational setting. This burnout could mean that group or team work is currently being overused in the educational setting, a stark contrast to research that highlights the limited use of groups and teams or collaborative learning in the classroom (Bobbitt, et al., 2000; Rassuli & Manzer, 2005).

These findings could also imply that the use of groups and teams in the classroom lacks a foundational basis of the group development process needed for students to fully understand and appreciate the benefits of group or team work. Barbour (2006) identified the need for groups and teams in the classroom to be combined with knowledge of the group development process. Further research is needed to establish the relationship between student perceptions and the frequency of group or team work experiences by students in the classroom setting. Additional research is also necessary to determine the degree to which introducing students to the process of group or team project development impacts student perception of group or team work use in the educational setting.

Objective 2

It was evident to the researchers through this case study that an increased awareness of the group or team development processes had a positive impact on the individual’s perception of group or team work. All four participants that perceived group or team work in the classroom negatively at the beginning of the semester indicated a change in perception to a positive outlook by the end of the semester. Additionally, other participants who indicated a positive perception at the beginning of the semester attributed the course material to a better understanding of past group experiences, a better appreciation of their fellow group members, and an understanding of the importance of the social or relational aspect of group work. Thus, participation in the course Leadership in Groups and Teams was an effective method of impacting students’ attitudes or perceptions of group or team work in the educational setting. In this case, student participants were able to reflect on having a personal experience through the semester project complemented with the knowledge of how a team should work in the educational setting.

Instructional Strategy

In addition to the findings for each of the objectives, the researchers were also able to make some cursory observations about instructional strategies that helped to make the course useful and successful. The course, Leadership in Groups and Teams, was one that fully immersed students in a group or team experience while they were learning about group and team issues and processes. It was also a course that facilitated the social side of group and team development, in addition to providing a task. The students had some ownership in determining their task and choosing a project that was meaningful to them. Since the class was reading from relevant literature, they were also very conscious of how what they were learning from their textbooks would play out in their actual experience. The researchers also noticed the contrast between group performance, in that one group embraced “team” learning and implemented a strong, cohesive project whereas another group took the “divide and conquer” approach resulting in several small tasks for the project implemented by the individuals of the group, but not as a whole.

Further research is needed in courses that do not have a direct focus on groups and teams within the curriculum, as well as in specific leadership courses focused on groups and teams, to determine the level of immersion needed for students to fully grasp the process and application of group and team development.


This case study was relatively small. It focused on one class during the course of one semester. Continuing to explore student perceptions in this and other similar classes throughout future semesters would likely yield even more useful findings. Furthermore, because the researchers were also instructors in the course, it is

possible that some participants censored their responses even though they knew their participation was not connected to their grade in the course. If this study were to be continued or replicated in the future, it would be helpful to have interviewers who were not connected to the course and make the information available to instructors only after grades have been posted for the term.


Although focused on only one course, these findings provide further support for the continuous evaluation of curriculum and use of student feedback to make instructional improvements (Lamont & Friedman, 1997; Duke & Reese, 1995). Educators utilizing groups and teams in the classroom should continue using qualitative research methods to explore the impact of course content on student perceptions as well as gaining feedback from students regarding the importance of project structure in a successful group/team experience. Consequently, instructors would have a better understanding of student needs and could incorporate information on the group development process into the classroom prior to utilizing group work. Also, leadership educators and other educators utilizing group and team work in the classroom should be intentional about ensuring students connect leadership content to real life applications. Inclusion of group and team development processes should also be incorporated into instruction (Barr, et al., 2005). Astin and Astin (2000) noted that leadership education is an emerging component of undergraduate education. Programs and degree pathways focused on leadership continue to expand at a rapid pace today. Leadership education, both formal and informal, plays an important role in developing the necessary leadership skills desired by employers and needed by our society today (Payne, et al., 2006; Blackwell, et al., 2007). Groups and teams are an integral part of our society; students and instructors alike must realize and take on the responsibilities and experiences needed for preparation and practice of leadership today and into the future.

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The Workplace Health Group: A Case Study of 20 Years of Multidisciplinary Research

Nicholas j. haynes.

Department of Psychology, University of Georgia

Robert J. Vandenberg

Department of Management, University of Georgia

David M. DeJoy

Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, University of Georgia

Mark G. Wilson

Heather m. padilla, heather s. zuercher, melissa m. robertson.

Owens Institute of Behavioral Research, University of Georgia

The Workplace Health Group (WHG) was established in 1998 to conduct research on worker health and safety and organizational effectiveness. This multidisciplinary team includes researchers with backgrounds in psychology, health promotion and behavior, and intervention design, implementation, and evaluation. The article begins with a brief history of the team, its guiding principles, and stages of team formation and development. This section provides examples of the roles team composition, structure, processes, cognition, leadership, and climate played in the various stages of team development, as well as how they influenced team effectiveness. The WHG formed with functional diversity—variety in knowledge, skills, and abilities—in mind and the impact of this diversity is discussed throughout the article. Illustrations of how the functional diversity of the WHG has led to real-world impact are provided. The article concludes with some lessons learned and recommendations for creating and sustaining multidisciplinary teams based on the WHG’s 20 years of experience and the team science literature.

Work plays a central role in most people’s lives—for the average individual, about half of all waking hours are spent at work. Work influences where we live, whom we associate with, our health, and our quality of life. However, the American workforce faces considerable challenges associated with poor health, safety concerns, and lack of productivity. For example, nearly 30% of American workers are obese ( Luckhaupt, Cohen, Li, & Calvert, 2014 ), incurring substantial indirect costs for organizations associated with absenteeism, reduced productivity at work, insurance claims, disability, and premature mortality ( Goettler, Gross, & Sonntag, 2017 ). From 2003–2010, over 42,000 U.S. workers were fatally injured at work, with associated costs exceeding $44 billion ( The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2017 ). In 2016, 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private employers, nearly one-third of which resulted in days away from work ( Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017 ).

These figures indicate a pressing need to address the health, safety, and effectiveness of the nation’s workforce. Yet, addressing these issues is extremely complicated due to physical, behavioral, psychological, social, technological, and sociopolitical factors—internal and external to an organization—that impact the nature and experience of work. The complexity of these issues requires multidisciplinary teams to understand and provide solutions to the real-world problems of worker health, safety, and effectiveness. The Workplace Health Group (WHG) was formed to address these real-world problems.

The WHG is a multidisciplinary research group that conducts research on workplace health, safety, and organizational effectiveness. The core of the group’s work revolves around the vision that healthy people and healthy workplaces are key ingredients of individual and organizational effectiveness and is reflected in the WHG value statement: healthy people + healthy places = healthy organizations. Through its research, the WHG works to understand the many complex links between work, safety, and health and how these impact employees’ quality of life and organizations’ overall effectiveness (financial as well as operational). As an academic group, the WHG’s goals reflect its institution’s mission to conduct impactful research, train students, and provide local and national outreach services. The WHG includes faculty, research staff, and graduate students from a number of disciplines including public health, psychology, management, sociology, human resources, nutrition, and exercise science. It is the intersection of these disciplines that provide the WHG the best opportunity to impact worker health, safety, and effectiveness. By leveraging each member’s expertise, understanding and valuing differences, and focusing on its mission, this multidisciplinary research team has been able to address real-world problems including employee obesity and chronic disease, workplace safety, and the cost effectiveness of employee health and safety initiatives.

A Brief History of the Workplace Health Group: From Forming to Performing

The WHG was founded in 1998; however, the effective team processes characterizing the WHG today did not occur immediately—or automatically—20 years ago when the members first began working together. Rather, it was an evolutionary process fraught with the dysfunctions that new groups commonly face as they go through the small group developmental stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing ( Tuckman & Jensen, 1977 ). Similarly, the group did not scan the extant literature of the day regarding teams and team effectiveness before forming. However, reviewing this literature now, the successes and missteps of the group align with what team science has uncovered. Thus, this article can be viewed as a case study of an effective, long-lasting multidisciplinary team, including recommendations based on the WHG’s 20 years of experience and the team science literature.

Forming The WHG

The forming stage involves the collection of team members as fairly independent agents who have come together to work on some agreed upon goals ( Tuckman & Jensen, 1977 ). The forming stage began in 1998 with the writing of a grant proposal by the second, third, and fourth authors. In terms of team processes, this marked the group’s first transition phase ( Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2001 ). Transition phases are defined as, “periods of time when teams focus primarily on evaluation and/or planning activities to guide their accomplishment of a team goal or objective” ( Marks et al., 2001 , p. 360). During this phase, the WHG took part in mission formulation and planning, along with goal and role specification. However, the WHG did not truly begin to function as a team until the grant proposal was funded. This award meant that the group had to seriously consider team structure and processes to deliver on its promises.

The award launched the WHG into their first action phase, or period of completing tasks that contribute directly to goal accomplishment ( Marks et al., 2001 ). These first transition and action phases were characterized by the typical forming stage ( Tuckman & Jensen, 1977 ). Specifically, it was an exciting time during which the WHG began to understand and accept respective roles, hired a grant director, and offered assistantships to PhD students. The WHG emerged structurally as a team during this period; however, the members within it acted more as independent agents than team members.

The WHG was formed with diversity in expertise in mind. Functional diversity refers to team members differing in knowledge, skills, ability, educational background, and the roles they play within the team ( Milliken, Bartel, & Kurtzberg, 2003 ). One of the predominant means to addressing the effects of functional diversity on team performance is the information and decision-making perspective ( van Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007 ; Williams & O’Reilly, 1998 ). According to this perspective, the variety in group composition has a direct, positive impact on group performance ( Williams & O’Reilly, 1998 ). Functional diversity gives the team a rich pool of resources to draw upon that facilitates the accomplishment of tasks toward team goals ( van Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007 ). In short, the positive impact on team performance is due to the team providing a range of knowledge to solving problems. Meta-analytic evidence provides support for this perspective, concluding that functional diversity is positively related to team performance ( Bell et al., 2011 ).

Despite the positive effects functional diversity can have on team performance, the WHG soon discovered why functional diversity can be a double-edged sword ( Bunderson & Sutcliffe, 2002 ). Challenges include differences in perspectives from diverse backgrounds in training and methodology ( National Research Council [NRC], 2015 ; Slatin, Galizzi, Melillo, & Mawn, 2004 ), knowledge integration ( Mesmer-Magnus & DeChurch, 2009 ; NRC, 2015 ), social integration ( Harrison, Price, Gavin, & Florey, 2002 ), high task interdependence ( Mannix & Neale, 2005 ; NRC, 2015 ), role conflict ( Johnson, Nguyen, Groth, & White, 2018 ), task conflict ( Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999 ), and relationship conflict ( Mohammed & Angell, 2004 ). These challenges pushed the WHG into the next stage of small group development: storming.

Storming The WHG

The storming stage entails team members learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. As such, interactions in this stage are commonly fraught with conflict due to personality and other individual differences, differences in how individuals approach tasks, negotiating what tasks are completed by whom, and power differences.

For the WHG, the most contentious interactions occurred around topics of what constituted sound scientific practices according to the members’ individual training and experience. Although the second and third authors completed PhD degrees emphasizing social psychology, they were quite dissimilar with respect to their approaches to data analysis. The second author’s research focus on business management was aligned with the I-O psychology tradition of proposing a set of conceptually-driven hypotheses and undertaking analyses to test only those hypotheses (i.e., a priori analyses). The third author’s research focused largely on factors in the workplace that either improved or impeded workplace safety. As such, his approach to data analysis was discovery. The fourth author, on the other hand, was much more qualitatively trained. Needless to say, there were many instances when these viewpoints clashed during meetings or when the analyses requested appeared unreasonable to one or more members. This has been shown to be a common obstacle for multidisciplinary teams ( NRC, 2015 ).

In addition to this primary difference, there were also differences in work styles, approaches to conducting meetings, and approaches to undertaking the tasks. Reflecting back on these early stages of the group, there were several attitudes and processes that exacerbated rather than ameliorated the severity of the storming stage. One challenging attitude during this stage was rigidity in the members’ functional perspectives. For example, the second author recalls that in the early years, he thought nothing of conducting analyses, drawing conclusions from them on his own, and then telling the other members about the outcomes.

The same was true of the other primary members when presenting through their specialized functional lenses. Moreover, there were team processes during this stage that detracted from team effectiveness and the transition into the next stage of group development. Examples of these ineffective processes include irrelevant tangents during meetings, disrespecting boundaries by going around members rather than through them, and bringing on non-core members who were necessary for the task, but did not share the team’s mission and values. That final ineffective process taught the WHG the importance of team member selection on multidisciplinary teams ( NRC, 2015 ). However, membership on academic, multidisciplinary teams is typically voluntary, so frustrated or dissatisfied members often simply withdraw from the team. This begs the question: What kept the WHG together?

Surviving the storm.

The fact that the group was funded to conduct the research and had externally-assigned deadlines provided a practical reason to move through the storming stage. Even if there was disagreement on a decision, the group made a commitment to follow through with the funded project. While practical, the “funding” strategy on its own would not work for 20 years of multidisciplinary research. In addition to this motivation, there were several aspects of team composition, structure, and processes that helped the WHG get through the storming stage.

Regarding the WHG team composition, deep-level composition variables consisting of psychological characteristics, such as personality, values, and attitudes of team members were beneficial during this stage. Each team member at that time had a moderate to high level of agreeableness, which is positively related to team performance ( Bell, 2007 ). The group recalls that, for the most part, everyone was willing to discuss issues objectively and professionally without letting egos get in the way (e.g., avoiding a “this is my idea; I have to defend it” attitude). Additionally, each member had a high level of openness to experience, which Bell’s (2007) meta-analysis also revealed as a strong predictor of team performance. Multidisciplinary teams likely have a relatively high level of openness to experience because joining a multidisciplinary team indicates an openness to other perspectives to solve a common problem.

While the general personality of the group and its members was helpful in surviving the storming stage, the ability to make it through this stage was driven most by the WHG’s shared mission, vision, and values. Harrison et al. (2002) discovered that functional diversity had a significant, negative influence on social integration. However, they also found that outcome importance was the only actual (vs. perceived) deep-level diversity variable that had a significant effect on social integration, which then influenced team performance. In other words, differences in how important the goal was to team members appeared to have the greatest impact on their inability to socially integrate. The WHG members had not only agreed on their mission and its potential value, they all placed a high level of importance on fulfilling that mission, which facilitated social integration.

The group collectively believed (and still believes) that work and health have a complex relationship and that understanding and improving this relationship through research is important. Furthermore, the group believed (and still believes) that conducting real-world, multi-site intervention research requires a multidisciplinary team approach—no single researcher has the time or set of skills necessary to execute a project with total control and independence. Consequently, the shared mission and vision of members of the WHG was a key factor in the group’s social integration and survival of the storming stage. Dose and Klimoski (1999) corroborate these views, proposing that work values affect team formation early on in the process, and similarity in these values leads to cohesiveness, trust, norm development, and effective communication. Finally, these shared values and mission brought satisfaction to the group members. Despite the moments of contention (i.e., storming), the members enjoyed working together; they valued their functional diversity.

Team structure was also important for buffering conflict during this stage. Each member played a specific role, so it was easy to delegate tasks to certain people. This reduced the potential for conflict because it enabled members to focus on their tasks. However, there is an important distinction to be made here between taskwork and teamwork. Taskwork processes are what teams are doing, whereas teamwork processes are how they are doing it with each other. The WHG learned during the storming phase that it is not only taskwork that matters, but how processes and tasks are completed is critical to team effectiveness.

Marks et al. (2001) developed a helpful framework for understanding team processes—validated through meta-analysis ( LePine, Piccolo, Jackson, Mathieu, & Saul, 2008 ). While the transition and action processes were mentioned previously, Marks and colleagues also describe a third type of process: interpersonal processes. Interpersonal processes are processes that are used to manage interpersonal relationships that occur during both transition and action phases. Reflecting on this stage in the WHG’s history, the group can identify processes in each of these three categories that were beneficial to moving the group past the storming stage.

During transition phases, the way in which the group conducted mission analysis, formulation, and planning was helpful for social integration. This process was conducted in an open and participatory manner, where decisions were made collectively, and all members openly shared their opinions. While this process could be viewed as a hindrance to team performance because of its inefficiency, the positive influence it had on social integration far outweighed its potential negative influence, especially during this time of storming. This process allowed all team members to remain informed and involved.

Regarding mission planning, Fisher (2014) distinguishes between taskwork planning and teamwork planning, where taskwork planning includes task-relevant discussion, the development of alternative courses of action for task completion, and goal specification. Teamwork planning encompasses the clarification of roles as well as the identification of member strengths and weaknesses and who knows what necessary information. The teamwork planning that occurred during the forming stage helped with interpersonal processes during the storming stage ( Fisher, 2014 ). These processes assisted the WHG in the beginning stages of team mental model and transactive memory system formation (see below). During the action phase, the action process of monitoring progress toward goals had a positive influence on team accountability during the storming stage. The group set specific deadlines for tasks and were (fairly) good about holding each other accountable to them.

Two interpersonal processes outlined by Marks et al. (2001) were beneficial to the survival of the storming stage: (a) motivation and confidence building, and (b) interpersonal conflict management. Team motivational states include team efficacy and team empowerment ( Chen & Kanfer, 2006 ). During the storming stage, team efficacy and empowerment grew out of continued success in obtaining funding. As the group continued to work together, the members’ confidence in each other’s expertise grew, which increased the team’s efficacy as a whole, and provided motivation to continue despite conflicting individual differences.

In addition to this motivation and confidence building, the team’s interpersonal conflict management strategies were essential for successful transition out of the storming stage. Given that conflict is going to happen in teams, how a team manages that conflict becomes important. DeChurch, Mesmer-Magnus, and Doty (2013) state that, “the truth about team conflict: Conflict processes, that is, how teams interact regarding their differences, are at least as important as conflict states, that is, the source and intensity of their perceived incompatibilities” (p. 559).

Overall, the effective interpersonal conflict management strategies used by the WHG during this time were characteristic of collectivistic team conflict processes (e.g., processes emphasizing openness and collaboration when approaching conflict). Consistent with meta-analytic evidence ( DeChurch et al., 2013 ), the WHG’s experience was that these collectivistic team conflict processes had positive effects on the group’s affect and performance. Most importantly, members’ respect and trust for each other and their expertise was the foundation underlying these effective processes. The WHG had (and still has) a shared respect among group members, which allowed for an attitude of “agree to disagree” on certain points and the ability to set those issues aside and work together as a team ( de Wit, Greer, & Jehn, 2012 ).

The storming stage can be a make-or-break period for multidisciplinary, functionally diverse teams. Success at this stage involves recognizing and opening up to the fact that conflict will occur as interactions deepen and become more frequent over time. Success is also determined, in part, by how the team approaches and manages the imminent conflict. As illustrated by the examples in this section, aspects of team composition, structure, and processes can either help or hurt the team’s ability to survive the storm. Readers are encouraged to examine Table 1 for recommendations for getting through the storming stage—and all other stages—based on the WHG’s experiences and the team science literature.

Recommendations for Each Stage of Small Group Development

Norming The WHG

The norming stage is characterized by acceptance of the differences among team members and focus on accomplishing the team goals ( Tuckman & Jensen, 1977 ). For the WHG, the key factor in ushering in the norming stage was the realization that the group was going to be a long-term entity. After successfully obtaining funding for additional projects over the years, the WHG took on a sense of permanency, which was an important psychological milestone because prior to this period, members sensed that the WHG would end with the completion of the next project. With continual funding came stability and a confidence that the values and goals of the WHG were resonating well with the funding sources.

Important to the norming of the WHG was solidifying the team leadership structure. The WHG leadership is an example of shared or collective leadership. Shared leadership can be defined as a “dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both” ( Pearce & Conger, 2002 , p. 1). The WHG leadership structure at the beginning of this stage did incorporate a bit of hierarchy. For example, while everyone was encouraged to share their opinions on a topic, if a consensus could not be reached, the ultimate decision would be deferred to the member with expertise on that topic. The effectiveness of this deferment was rooted in the shared trust and respect discussed above. While the leadership style was and continues to be one of shared leadership, the addition of multiple, often overlapping, research grants and projects necessitated the expansion of the WHG team as well as an adjustment of the leadership structure.

With the expansion of team members and projects, it was no longer efficient to have all members of the WHG meet simultaneously, because projects would often have different principal investigators (PIs) and team members. To account for this change, the WHG formed sub-teams that were project specific and were led by the PI for that project. The expansion and the overlapping nature of the funded projects also led to the need to hire a research director. The research director position was instrumental in creating long-term standardized sets of operating procedures and processes across the projects. Standardizing the processes removed much ambiguity and provided a consistent set of norms under which all members would operate, in addition to further solidifying team member roles.

In terms of team processes, the research director role took the lead on most of the action processes described by Marks et al. (2001) ; namely, monitoring progress toward goals, systems monitoring, and coordination. In terms of the leadership and roles literature, the research director led most of the task leadership functions ( Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010 ). Specifically, the research director performed the leadership functions of structuring and planning, or coordinating when work should be done (e.g., timing, scheduling, work flow). The WHG leadership structure became necessarily more hierarchical over time with the formation of sub-teams; however, open sharing and collective decision-making characterized each sub-team along with the core team. Advantages of this leadership structure include creating a sense of value within the group and giving everyone a voice, while also taking advantage of the efficiency of sub-teams. Indeed, Carson, Tesluk, and Marrone (2007) found that a shared purpose, social support, and voice were positively related to shared leadership. However, some disadvantages of this type of structure can include creating an opportunity for team members to avoid ownership, and some confusion among new team members regarding who is the “boss” (see Table 2 for WHG role descriptions).

Descriptions of the Workplace Health Group Roles and Responsibilities

Another important process that occurred during the norming stage was the further development of team cognition (e.g., shared mental models and transactive memory systems). Shared mental models represent knowledge that is common among team members, whereas transactive memory systems represent knowledge that is distributed among team members ( DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2010 ). As stated earlier, the WHG’s team cognition began to form in the first transition phase, during which the team explored strengths and weaknesses of each member. However, the team cognition at the forming stage was in its infancy and was very limited in scope. During the norming stage, the shared mental models and transactive memory systems expanded, which has been shown to have strong, positive relationships with team behavioral processes, motivational states, and team performance ( DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2010 ).

How did the WHG develop their team cognition? In the words of one team member, “meetings…lots of meetings.” However, meetings alone do not guarantee the effective development of team cognition. Rather, what happened during the WHG meetings is what drove the team cognition development process. Specifically, in order to develop team cognition, team members had to share and integrate information (i.e., information sharing and elaboration, respectively). Although evidence suggests that functionally diverse teams are the least likely to share their unique information with each other ( Mesmer-Magnus & DeChurch, 2009 ), the mutual respect and trust established in the storming stage was key to facilitating information sharing for the WHG by creating a team psychological safety climate.

Team psychological safety climate is defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking, and is characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect, which creates an environment where team members are comfortable being themselves ( Edmondson, 1999 ). Mannix and Neale (2005) observed that diverse teams must create an environment where members are comfortable sharing information to be effective and fully utilize the diversity of the team. During the storming stage, the WHG sought to create an environment of psychological safety where different views could be presented without fear of ridicule or retribution. Through this psychological safety climate, WHG team members were able to take full advantage of information sharing and its positive impact on team performance.

The regularly scheduled WHG meetings were (and are) characterized by relatively high levels of open and unique information sharing, high cooperation, and ample opportunities for each team member to share his or her opinion. These characteristics have all been shown to facilitate team cohesion and satisfaction ( Mesmer-Magnus & DeChurch, 2009 ). However, to develop team cognition, information does not simply need to be shared, it must also be integrated. Information elaboration involves exchanging information and perspectives (i.e., information sharing), providing feedback to the group, and a discussion and integration of the shared information ( van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004 ). This information elaboration process enables functionally diverse teams to transform and fully utilize their knowledge, skills, and resources into actionable solutions to complex problems ( Resick, Murase, Randall, & DeChurch, 2014 ; van Knippenberg et al., 2004 ). The WHG has found these processes to be beneficial not only to team cognition, but also to team effectiveness.

Performing The WHG

The performing stage is characterized by a high degree of success along several different metrics, driven largely by a participative team culture ( Tuckman & Jensen, 1977 ). The WHG is currently in the performing stage in which its multidisciplinary composition is effectively utilized to not only solve problems on current projects, but also to develop innovative ideas for new grant opportunities. Since 1998, the WHG has achieved continuous external funding (approximately $13 million) from many sources, including NIH, CDC, NIOSH, and FEMA. The WHG successes are also apparent in its 66 peer-reviewed publications, 14 book chapters, and 74 presentations. Regarding application of the WHG’s research to real-world problems, the group has worked with large employers such as Home Depot, Union Pacific Railroad, and Dow Chemical, as well as with governmental employers, including city-country governments, state agencies, and municipal public safety departments in both urban and rural settings.

The diverse composition of the team in terms of function and personality allowed members to bring a collective group of strengths together. For example, one PI is very task-oriented, which helps keep the projects and proposals progressing. Another PI is more conceptual and thoughtful, which is very important in the proposal or project development and troubleshooting phases. Additionally, the WHG continues to improve team processes. The following example illustrates how the WHG currently solves problems and makes decisions through information sharing and elaboration and collective decision-making.

During a recent meeting devoted to the quantitative analyses of aims and hypotheses of the WHG’s current grant, the data analysis sub-team needed to determine whether any primary analyses would be biased by the presence of nesting issues. There were conceptual reasons not to expect the interdependency, but the sub-team wanted to present statistical evidence that this was the case. Most illustrative of the performing stage is the fact that the data analysis sub-team did not want to make this decision on its own. Rather, it wanted to present the conceptual and statistical evidence to all WHG members to get their feedback on the issue.

This differs dramatically from the example given in the storming stage of simply telling others what had been done and expect that the they accept it. Now the data analysis sub-team solicits input by communicating the conceptual and statistical evidence to members in a manner they understand ( Williams & O’Reilly, 1998 ). Therefore, while the sub-team leader couched the general problem to other members in a non-technical manner, most importantly, the PhD student organized and presented the statistical results in a manner such that the less statistically-oriented members could be part of the conversation and the decisions made. The WHG meetings have been conducted in this manner for many years now, regardless of the issues being addressed or decisions being made. While this meeting process makes it difficult to submit numerous proposals quickly, it allows for a fuller integration and extension of the disciplines involved.

A final area that has led to the WHG’s effectiveness is the strengthening of its psychological safety climate. Two points are worth noting about this increase in climate strength: the climate is now both easily recognizable and quickly beneficial to new team members. At the start of 2018, when writing and submitting a new grant proposal, in addition to the primary WHG members, there were two subject matter experts (SMEs) with their own functional knowledge added to the group for purposes of the grant. Both individuals sensed immediately the climate of the WHG and adjusted their conversations in a manner that fit within this climate. After the proposal was submitted, one of those individuals commented that it was the best grant writing experience he has had in over 20 years as a faculty member.

In addition to high satisfaction, the WHG team climate provides a sense of value, belonging, and support to new team members. For example, recently, the WHG had several full-time staff members serving as health coaches on a funded project. Throughout the project, the PIs and research director met with the coaches on a weekly basis to discuss progress and problems. These meetings were designed to facilitate group learning and problem-solving while also creating a supportive environment for the health coaches.

Although the WHG is in the performing stage, continued successful performance requires consistent and sustained effort on the part of all team members. Moreover, the WHG team must continue to actively manage changes in personnel (including changes in the experience and position of personnel) to maintain effectiveness (NRC, 2015). For example, the former research director (the fifth author) recently graduated with her PhD and joined the university as a faculty member; this required team members to adjust their views of her as a staff member who managed the day-to-day details to a co-investigator. Additionally, as PhD students enter, grow in competence, and exit the group, the team needs to adjust its expectations regarding the level of autonomy versus oversight. Ongoing performance is actively facilitated by a flexible and open-minded approach to changes in the various team members and their competencies.

Illustrations of Functional Diversity and Real-World Impact

The diverse knowledge, skills, abilities, educational and experiential backgrounds of the WHG members provide opportunities for each person’s unique experience and expertise to enhance the group’s projects. The group’s basic approach has involved a conscious merger of theories and principles from the behavioral sciences, predominately psychology, with strategies adapted from public health research and practice. Specifically, the WHG blends the methodological and measurement sophistication of the behavioral sciences with the field-based tactics of public health. The WHG has conducted research in several areas, including physical activity in the workplace (e.g., Dishman, DeJoy, Wilson, & Vandenberg, 2009 ), organizational health promotion (e.g., DeJoy & Wilson, 2003 ), firefighter safety (e.g., Smith, Eldridge, & DeJoy, 2016 ), and many others. However, the group’s innovation is perhaps most evident in three of the WHG’s areas of research: healthy work organizations, environmental approaches to weight management, and research translation.

Healthy Work Organization Research

The WHG’s focus on healthy work organization (HWO) coincided with the emergence of integrated programming (e.g., “Total Worker Health” [TWH]). TWH seeks to merge health protection and promotion into a single integrated endeavor to maximize the health, safety, and well-being of workers. In one of the first interventions to focus on changing work organization factors (e.g., work schedules) to improve worker health, safety, and effectiveness, the WHG collaborated with a large, national retailer to test a model of HWO. To successfully design, implement, and evaluate this HWO intervention required expertise in four areas: 1) how work organizations operate, 2) intervention design and implementation, 3) behavioral theory, and 4) advanced methods and statistics.

The second author provided expertise in individual worker adjustment to outline organizational antecedents, mediators, and outcomes associated with the intervention. Moreover, his expertise in high involvement work processes ( Vandenberg, Richardson, & Eastman, 1999 ) as a psychological climate variable provided a primary theoretical framework for the intervention. The third author added to this knowledge with his expertise in occupational health and safety, allowing him to theorize health and safety outcomes and antecedents, such as a safety climate (e.g., DeJoy, Schaffer, Wilson, Vandenberg, & Butts, 2004 ). His expertise in behavioral theories also enabled him to spearhead the application of psychological theories to the design of the intervention. The fourth author, with his expertise in public health intervention creation, implementation, and evaluation, was able to integrate this knowledge together into a cohesive program designed to modify underlying behaviors and environmental conditions, ultimately mitigating the outcomes. Finally, the WHG utilized the second author’s expertise of longitudinal data analysis (e.g., Lance, Vandenberg, & Self, 2000 ) and structural equation modeling (e.g., Williams, Vandenberg, & Edwards, 2009 ) to properly analyze the effectiveness of the intervention. Together, the PIs were able to develop and implement a workplace intervention program that had positive effects on worker health, safety, and effectiveness.

Specifically, this research investigated the effects of the HWO intervention on employee health, financial performance, and organizational climate. The HWO intervention was a team-based, data-driven, problem-solving approach that expanded upon the process proposed by DeJoy and Wilson (2003) . Employee teams that included representatives from all departments and employee levels used work organization data specific to their worksite to create a plan to improve safety and health conditions within their worksite. Compared to control sites, worksites receiving the intervention fared better in terms of organizational climate, psychological work adjustment, perceived health and safety, employee turnover, and sales per hour ( DeJoy, Wilson, Vandenberg, McGrath, & Griffin-Blake, 2010 ).

Environmental Approaches to Weight Management Research

One project focusing on environmental approaches to weight management was conducted with the cooperation of the Dow Chemical Company, Cornell University, and National Business Group on Health ( Goetzel et al., 2010 ). Using the psychological principles of goal setting, reinforcement theory, and self-regulation, this multi-site randomized trial approached weight management by focusing on modifications to work and organizational environments rather than focusing exclusively on individual behavior change strategies. Two levels of environmental modifications were tested: straightforward environmental changes (e.g., altering onsite food and snack options, installing walking paths and/or other features supportive of physical activity, establishing an employee recognition program), and an additional set of interventions directed at building management and organizational support for healthy eating and physical activity. This was one of the first intervention studies to attempt to modify obesity in an entire work population by focusing on the work environment itself. Adding to contributions made by the PIs (similar to the example above), the fifth author provided her expertise as a registered dietitian nutritionist to include nutrition strategies to this and other intervention projects.

This project aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing environmental interventions for obesity prevention in worksites and test whether environmental interventions, relative to individual interventions, reduced the prevalence of obesity, decreased healthcare utilization, and improved employee productivity. This intervention trial also featured a detailed process evaluation component to assess intervention fidelity and the development of two new assessment tools: the Environmental Assessment Tool (EAT) and the Leading by Example Questionnaire (LBE; DeJoy et al., 2012 ; DeJoy et al., 2008 ; Della, DeJoy, Goetzel, Ozminkowski, & Wilson, 2008 ). The EAT is an audit tool for assessing workplace physical and social environmental supports for weight management. The LBE is a brief scale for assessing management support for positive health behaviors. Management support is considered a crucial component of successful workplace health promotion initiatives, but prior to this project, it had seldom been objectively assessed. Intervention sites showed consistent improvements in environmental supports for weight management and positive shifts in perceived health climate. However, intervention fidelity was less robust for the intensive treatment condition, revealing some of the challenges involved in sustaining leadership engagement. Overall, the environmental interventions were effective in preventing weight gain, but did not demonstrate effects on healthcare costs and employee productivity ( Goetzel et al., 2010 ).

Translation Research

A third area of research for the WHG has involved research translation. The WHG’s translation projects primarily represent what Schulte et al. (2017) referred to as Stage 2 (Testing) among the four stages of translation, where programs shown to be effective in clinical and other non-work setting are adapted for implementation in work settings. Thus far, the WHG has conducted three translation projects. The first project began in 2007 at which time there was little guidance on the process of research translation and few translation studies in worksites to draw upon. This required the WHG to rely on the team’s experience to inform the translation process.

The WHG’s first project on translation assessed whether the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was feasible and effective for weight loss in a worksite setting. DPP was translated into a simple, low cost intervention that could be used in a variety of work settings, including those with limited health and wellness resources. The intervention used a combination of occupational health nurses and peer health coaches to implement the translated DPP. Compared to control worksites, participants in the intervention sites maintained their weight ( Wilson, DeJoy, Vandenberg, Padilla, & Davis, 2016 ). Data from this project suggested that peer health coaches were underutilized, and employees were not comfortable talking with their peers about personal health issues.

Building on these findings, the WHG tested a second translation of DPP that included intensive health coaching facilitated by trained WHG staff. Worksites were randomized into one of three conditions: a) telephone health coaching, b) small groups facilitated by a health coach, and c) self-study (comparison condition). The phone condition lost significantly more weight than either the group condition or self-study condition ( Wilson et al., 2016 ). Translation and intervention implementation in worksites requires consideration of implementation costs, cost-effectiveness, and return-on-investment. To capture economic aspects of translation and implementation of programs in the worksite, the group recruited an SME with expertise in economic evaluation. A detailed costs analysis found that the phone condition was costlier than the group and self-study condition ( Ingels et al., 2016 ). Additionally, group coaching was not cost-effective relative to the self-study condition (Corso et al., 2018). In a more recent translation project, the WHG worked with the original developers of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) at Stanford University. The research team created a workplace version of the program “wCDSMP” and preliminary findings (project is ongoing) show positive results for a number of relevant outcomes (fatigue, physical activity, etc.) compared to the traditional CDSMP ( Smith et al., 2018 ).

As others have reported, one of the largest challenges in translating programs from clinic and community settings to worksites is balancing program fidelity and adaptation ( Backer, 2001 ). Modifications to key intervention components (i.e., local adaptations) must be possible, but not so extensive as to dilute or destroy intervention efficacy ( Wilson, Brady, & Lesesne, 2011 ). The WHG has improved in this area over time. Whereas earlier projects weighted the fidelity-adaptation balance perhaps too far toward adaptation, the more recent translation efforts have increased the fidelity of the translation process. This change has resulted in more effective interventions in terms of expected outcomes ( Blakely et al., 1987 ).

These research translation projects have relied on the intervention expertise of the fourth author, the behavior theory expertise of the third author, the methodological expertise of the second author, the experience in coordination and intervention implementation of the fifth and sixth authors, data management and analysis by the first and last authors, and the contribution of SMEs. These projects would not be possible without the unique contributions of the entire team.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Multidisciplinary Teams

A number of lessons have been learned over the last 20 years. Unlike Table 1 , what follows are general recommendations that are not necessarily specific to any stage, but provide guidance to those starting up multidisciplinary, functionally diverse labs or workgroups.

  • Develop a primary vision, mission, and goal. Key to the success of any multidisciplinary team is collective identification through a shared mission, vision, and goal ( Van Der Vegt & Bunderson, 2005 ). The vision for the WHG has always been promoting better health and safety in the workplace. Practically, all decisions within the group return to asking, “how well is what we are deciding facilitating completing our vision?” For example, the WHG ignores calls for grant proposals that do not have a clear link to promoting better health, safety, and effectiveness in the workplace. Not only will a clear vision, mission, and goal provide a helpful decision-making anchor for the group, as outlined in the storming stage section, this common mission can help unite the team and buffer the negative effects of functional diversity on social integration and performance.
  • Prepare for conflict via teamwork training and development. Conflict will arise on any team. However, as has been illustrated in the WHG experience and the teams research literature, multidisciplinary teams increase the probability of interpersonal conflict. A helpful way to prepare for conflict and challenges is through teamwork building and training. There are several types of effective team building and training interventions available and the choice depends on the team’s goal for the training. Two types of team building activities the authors would recommend to all new multidisciplinary teams are discipline-specific information sharing (e.g., foundational concepts, typical methodologies) and interpersonal conflict management training. The information sharing should be done on a consistent and systematic basis over time (see Slatin et al., 2004 ). Interpersonal conflict management is important in all teams, but particularly so in multidisciplinary teams (e.g., Johnson et al., 2018 ). Readers are encouraged to refer to Lacerenza, Marlow, Tannenbaum, and Salas (2018) and NRC (2015) for excellent resources on specific types of evidence-based team building and training.
  • Embrace the power of multidisciplinary, functional diversity. Multidisciplinary, functionally diverse teams are essential to solve many complex, real-world problems. Supporting this statement, Uzzi, Mukherjee, Stringer, and Jones (2013) discovered that journal articles which combined the highly conventional (i.e., based on prior research) with the infusion of unusual combinations of disciplines have the highest impact. As such, the WHG recommends avoiding hiring or inviting someone to the team who duplicates the knowledge, skills, and abilities of another member—this includes staff, students, and SMEs. While some overlap is expected, the individual should bring an expertise to the team that is needed or required. As noted previously, one source of conflict for the WHG was differing views of what constituted “science” from members’ functional lenses. Part of embracing the power of multidisciplinary, functional diversity includes confronting this issue, perhaps through training mentioned in Recommendation #2. Moreover, these issues should be directly addressed with PhD students, who are in the process of being socialized to their respective fields and may come in to the multidisciplinary team with strong beliefs about “good science” that are inherited from faculty in their home departments.
  • Invest in graduate students. Adding graduate students to the research team is a mutually beneficial experience for the student and the team. Graduate students—typically from I-O psychology—have always been an important part of the WHG. Graduate students provide up-to-date knowledge of their discipline’s research literature and contemporary research methods and statistical analyses, which allows the group to answer different questions in different ways than it would be able to without that perspective. From the student’s perspective, working with the WHG lets them participate first-hand in multidisciplinary research and gain competence in a number of statistical techniques and research designs—experiences that help prepare them for co-investigator roles on grant submissions. In addition to I-O psychology students, the WHG has worked with and trained students from other areas, including business management, health promotion and behavior, and epidemiology. All these students brought their own experiences and expertise and received valuable training from multiple disciplines.
  • Plan for the long-term. Along with hiring “good” people (e.g., who share the team’s mission, enhance functional diversity, and are open-minded toward other perspectives), a successful multidisciplinary team should include and mentor junior faculty and research staff with a succession plan in mind. While still involved in nearly all of the projects, the third author is officially retired, and the second and fourth authors are likely within a few years of retiring. It would be disappointing to see the WHG “retire” with them. Successors should ideally join the multidisciplinary team prior to retirements, or other forms of team attrition, to form an institutional memory of the team’s history and an understanding of what it will take to adapt the team to changing circumstances and new opportunities. The WHG has incorporated a training model into its project director, research coordinator, and research director roles, where staff hired in one role were often promoted to project director or research director after gaining experience.


The WHG’s existence for 20 years has been due admittedly in part to good luck—meaning, the group did not form with an understanding of multidisciplinary team effectiveness or a long-term plan in mind. However, the group’s success is also largely due to addressing meaningful questions, informed by psychological principles, careful intervention designs, and rigorous quasi-experimental field methodology. The WHG’s commitment to addressing meaningful questions about health, safety, and effectiveness has guided the WHG through the inevitable conflicts and challenges over a 20-year period. While the WHG did not form with multidisciplinary team effectiveness knowledge, it did form with functional diversity as a core component. Reflecting on the group’s 20 years of existence, it is clear that the experiences and lessons learned by the WHG are consistent with the team science literature. It is the authors’ hope that this article proves to be a beneficial case study of an effective and long-lasting multidisciplinary team, providing an inside look at the triumphs, missteps, and lessons learned of the WHG, while also connecting these experiences to the scientific literature.

Contributor Information

Nicholas J. Haynes, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia.

Robert J. Vandenberg, Department of Management, University of Georgia.

David M. DeJoy, Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, University of Georgia.

Mark G. Wilson, Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, University of Georgia.

Heather M. Padilla, Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, University of Georgia.

Heather S. Zuercher, Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, University of Georgia.

Melissa M. Robertson, Owens Institute of Behavioral Research, University of Georgia.

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The Five Stages of Team Development: A Case Study

Team Building | By Gina Abudi | Read time minutes

Sticky notes on a cork board showing the stages of team development

Every team goes through the five stages of team development. First, some background on team development. The first four stages of team growth were first developed by Bruce Wayne Tuckman and published in 1965.

His theory, called "Tuckman's Stages" was based on research he conducted on team dynamics. He believed (as is a common belief today) that these stages are inevitable in order for a team to grow to the point where they are functioning effectively together and delivering high quality results.

In 1977, Tuckman, jointly with Mary Ann Jensen, added a fifth stage to the 4 stages: "Adjourning." The adjourning stage is when the team is completing the current project. They will be joining other teams and moving on to other work in the near future. For a high performing team, the end of a project brings on feelings of sadness as the team members have effectively become as one and now are going their separate ways.

The five stages:

Stage 1: Forming

Stage 2: storming, stage 3: norming, stage 4: performing, stage 5: adjourning.

This article provides background on each stage and an example of a team going through all five stages.

The "forming" stage takes place when the team first meets each other. In this first meeting, team members are introduced to each. They share information about their backgrounds, interests and experience and form first impressions of each other. They learn about the project they will be working on, discuss the project's objectives/goals and start to think about what role they will play on the project team. They are not yet working on the project. They are, effectively, "feeling each other out" and finding their way around how they might work together.

During this initial stage of team growth, it is important for the team leader to be very clear about team goals and provide clear direction regarding the project. The team leader should ensure that all of the members are involved in determining team roles and responsibilities and should work with the team to help them establish how they will work together ("team norms"). The team is dependent on the team leader to guide them.

As the team begins to work together, they move into the "storming" stage. This stage is not avoidable; every team - most especially a new team who has never worked together before - goes through this part of developing as a team. In this stage, the team members compete with each other for status and for acceptance of their ideas. They have different opinions on what should be done and how it should be done - which causes conflict within the team. As they go progress through this stage, with the guidance of the team leader, they learn how to solve problems together, function both independently and together as a team, and settle into roles and responsibilities on the team. For team members who do not like conflict, this is a difficult stage to go through.

The team leader needs to be adept at facilitating the team through this stage - ensuring the team members learn to listen to each other and respect their differences and ideas. This includes not allowing any one team member to control all conversations and to facilitate contributions from all members of the team. The team leader will need to coach some team members to be more assertive and other team members on how to be more effective listeners.

This stage will come to a closure when the team becomes more accepting of each other and learns how to work together for the good of the project. At this point, the team leader should start transitioning some decision making to the team to allow them more independence, but still stay involved to resolve any conflicts as quickly as possible.

Some teams, however, do not move beyond this stage and the entire project is spent in conflict and low morale and motivation, making it difficult to get the project completed. Usually teams comprised of members who are professionally immature will have a difficult time getting past this stage.

When the team moves into the "norming" stage, they are beginning to work more effectively as a team. They are no longer focused on their individual goals, but rather are focused on developing a way of working together (processes and procedures). They respect each other's opinions and value their differences. They begin to see the value in those differences on the team. Working together as a team seems more natural. In this stage, the team has agreed on their team rules for working together, how they will share information and resolve team conflict, and what tools and processes they will use to get the job done. The team members begin to trust each other and actively seek each other out for assistance and input. Rather than compete against each other, they are now helping each other to work toward a common goal. The team members also start to make significant progress on the project as they begin working together more effectively.

In this stage, the team leader may not be as involved in decision making and problem solving since the team members are working better together and can take on more responsibility in these areas. The team has greater self-direction and is able to resolve issues and conflict as a group. On occasion, however, the team leader may step in to move things along if the team gets stuck. The team leader should always ensure that the team members are working collaboratively and may begin to function as a coach to the members of the team.

In the "performing" stage, teams are functioning at a very high level. The focus is on reaching the goal as a group. The team members have gotten to know each other, trust each other and rely on each other.

Not every team makes it to this level of team growth; some teams stop at Stage 3: Norming. The highly performing team functions without oversight and the members have become interdependent. The team is highly motivated to get the job done. They can make decisions and problem solve quickly and effectively. When they disagree, the team members can work through it and come to consensus without interrupting the project's progress. If there needs to be a change in team processes - the team will come to agreement on changing processes on their own without reliance on the team leader.

In this stage, the team leader is not involved in decision making, problem solving or other such activities involving the day-to-day work of the team. The team members work effectively as a group and do not need the oversight that is required at the other stages. The team leader will continue to monitor the progress of the team and celebrate milestone achievements with the team to continue to build team camaraderie. The team leader will also serve as the gateway when decisions need to be reached at a higher level within the organisation.

Even in this stage, there is a possibility that the team may revert back to another stage. For example, it is possible for the team to revert back to the "storming" stage if one of the members starts working independently. Or, the team could revert back to the "forming" stage if a new member joins the team. If there are significant changes that throw a wrench into the works, it is possible for the team to revert back to an earlier stage until they are able to manage through the change.

In the "adjourning" stage the project is coming to an end and the team members are moving off into different directions. This stage looks at the team from the perspective of the well-being of the team rather than from the perspective of managing a team through the original four stages of team growth.

The team leader should ensure that there is time for the team to celebrate the success of the project and capture best practices for future use. (Or, if it was not a successful project - to evaluate what happened and capture lessons learned for future projects). This also provides the team the opportunity to say good-bye to each other and wish each other luck as they pursue their next endeavour. It is likely that any group that reached Stage 4: Performing will keep in touch with each other as they have become a very close knit group and there will be sadness at separating and moving on to other projects independently.

Is the Team Effective or Not?

There are various indicators of whether a team is working effectively together as a group. The characteristics of effective, successful teams include:

  • Clear communication among all members
  • Regular brainstorming session with all members participating
  • Consensus among team members
  • Problem solving done by the group
  • Commitment to the project and the other team members
  • Regular team meetings are effective and inclusive
  • Timely hand off from team members to others to ensure the project keeps moving in the right direction
  • Positive, supportive working relationships among all team members

Teams that are not working effectively together will display the characteristics listed below. The team leader will need to be actively involved with such teams. The sooner the team leader addresses issues and helps the team move to a more effective way of working together, the more likely the project is to end successfully.

  • Lack of communication among team members
  • No clear roles and responsibilities for team members
  • Team members "throw work over the wall" to other team members, with lack of concern for timelines or work quality
  • Team members work alone, rarely sharing information and offering assistance
  • Team members blame others for what goes wrong, no one accepts responsibility
  • Team members do not support others on the team
  • Team members are frequently absent thereby causing slippage in the timeline and additional work for their team members

Example of a Team Moving Through the Five Stages

Background and team members.

A team has been pulled together from various parts of a large service organisation to work on a new process improvement project that is needed to improve how the company manages and supports its client base. The team lead on this project is Sandra from the Chicago office who has 15 years experience as a project manager/team lead managing process improvement projects.

The other members of the team include:

  • Peter: 10 years experience on various types of projects, expertise in scheduling and budget control (office location: San Diego)
  • Sarah: 5 years experience as an individual contributor on projects, strong programming background, some experience developing databases (office location: Chicago)
  • Mohammed: 8 years experience working on various projects, expertise in earned value management, stakeholder analysis and problem solving (office location: New York)
  • Donna: 2 years experience as an individual contributor on projects (office location: New York)
  • Ameya: 7 years experience on process improvement projects, background in developing databases, expertise in earned value management (office location: San Diego)

Sandra has worked on projects with Sarah and Mohammed, but has never worked with the others. Donna has worked with Mohammed. No one else has worked with other members of this team. Sandra has been given a very tight deadline to get this project completed.

Sandra has decided that it would be best if the team met face-to-face initially, even though they will be working virtually for the project. She has arranged a meeting at the New York office (company headquarters) for the entire team. They will spend 2 days getting introduced to each other and learning about the project.

The Initial Meeting (Stage 1: Forming)

The day of the face-to-face meeting in New York has arrived. All team members are present. The agenda includes:

  • Personal introductions
  • Team building exercises
  • Information about the process improvement project
  • Discussion around team roles and responsibilities
  • Discussion around team norms for working together
  • Introduction on how to use the SharePoint site that will be used for this project to share ideas, brainstorm, store project documentation, etc

The team members are very excited to meet each other. Each of them has heard of one another, although they have not worked together as a team before. They believe they each bring value to this project. The team building exercises have gone well; everyone participated and seemed to enjoy the exercises. While there was some discussion around roles and responsibilities - with team members vying for "key" positions on the team - overall there was agreement on what needed to get done and who was responsible for particular components of the project.

The onsite meeting is going well. The team members are getting to know each other and have been discussing their personal lives outside of work - hobbies, family, etc. Sandra is thinking that this is a great sign that they will get along well - they are engaged with each other and genuinely seem to like each other!

The Project Work Begins (Stage 2: Storming)

The team members have gone back to their home offices and are beginning work on their project. They are interacting via the SharePoint site and the project is off to a good start. And then the arguments begin.

Peter has put up the project schedule based on conversations with only Mohammed and Ameya on the team. Donna and Sarah feel as if their input to the schedule was not considered. They believe because they are more junior on the team, Peter has completely disregarded their concerns about the timeline for the project. They challenged Peter's schedule, stating that it was impossible to achieve and was setting up the team for failure. At the same time, Sarah was arguing with Ameya over who should lead the database design and development effort for this project. While Sarah acknowledges that Ameya has a few years more experience than she does in database development, she only agreed to be on this project in order to take a lead role and develop her skills further so she could advance at the company. If she knew Ameya was going to be the lead she wouldn't have bothered joining this project team. Additionally, Mohammed appears to be off and running on his own, not keeping the others apprised of progress nor keeping his information up to date on the SharePoint site. No one really knows what he has been working on or how much progress is being made.

Sandra had initially taken a side role during these exchanges, hoping that the team would work it out for themselves. However, she understands from past experience managing many project teams that it is important for her to take control and guide the team through this difficult time. She convenes all of the team members for a virtual meeting to reiterate their roles and responsibilities (which were agreed to in the kick-off meeting) and to ensure that they understand the goals and objectives of the project. She made some decisions since the team couldn't come to agreement. She determined that Ameya would lead the database development design component of the project, working closely with Sarah so she can develop further experience in this area. She reviewed the schedule that Peter created with the team, making adjustments where necessary to address the concerns of Donna and Sarah. She reminded Mohammed that this is a team effort and he needs to work closely with the others on the team.

During the virtual meeting session, Sandra referred back to the ground rules the team set in their face-to-face meeting and worked with the team to ensure that there was a plan in place for how decisions are made on the team and who has responsibility for making decisions.

Over the next few weeks, Sandra noticed that arguments/disagreements were at a minimum and when they did occur, they were worked out quickly, by the team, without her involvement being necessary. Still, she monitored how things were going and held regular virtual meetings to ensure the team was moving in the right direction. On a monthly basis, Sandra brings the team together for a face-to-face meeting. As the working relationships of the team members started improving, Sandra started seeing significant progress on the project.

All is Going Smoothly (Stage 3: Norming)

The team has now been working together for nearly 3 months. There is definitely a sense of teamwork among the group. There are few arguments and disagreements that can't be resolved among the team. They support each other on the project - problem solving issues, making decisions as a team, sharing information and ensuring that the ground rules put in place for the team are followed.

Additionally, the team members are helping each other to grow and develop their skills. For example, Ameya has worked closely with Sarah to teach her many of the skills he has learned in database design and development and she has been able to take the lead on accomplishing some of the components of their aspect of the project.

Overall, the team members are becoming friends. They enjoy each other's company - both while working on the project and after hours via communicating on email, via instant messaging, on Twitter, or over the telephone.

Significant Progress is Made! (Stage 4: Performing)

The team is now considered a "high performing team." It wasn't easy getting to this stage but they made it! They are working effectively as a group - supporting each other and relying on the group as a whole to make decisions on the project. They can brainstorm effectively to solve problems and are highly motivated to reach the end goal as a group. When there is conflict on the team - such as a disagreement on how to go about accomplishing a task - the group is able to work it out on their own without relying on the team leader to intervene and make decisions for them. The more junior members - Donna and Sarah - have really developed their skills with the support and help of the others. They have taken on leadership roles for some components of the project.

Sandra checks in with the team - praising them for their hard work and their progress. The team celebrates the milestones reached along the way. When necessary, Sandra provides a link from the team to the executives for decisions that need to come from higher up or when additional support is needed.

The project is on time and within budget. Milestones are being met - some are even ahead of schedule. The team is pleased with how well the project is going along, as is Sandra and the executives of the organisation.

Time to Wrap Up (Stage 5: Adjourning)

The project has ended. It was a huge success! The internal customer is pleased and there is definitely an improvement in how the company supports its clients. It has been a great 8 months working together…with some ups and downs of course. Each of the individuals on the project will be moving to other projects within the organisation, but no one is going to be on the same project. They will miss working with each other but have vowed to remain friends and keep in touch on a personal level - hopefully to work together again soon!

The team has gotten together in the New York office to discuss the project, including documenting best practices and discussing what worked effectively and what they would improve upon given the chance to do it again. Sandra has taken the team out to dinner. They are joined by the project sponsor and some other executives who are extremely pleased with the end result.

This is a simplistic view of a team working through the five stages of team development. I hope it provides some benefit to you.

Remember that at any time this team could revert back to a previous stage. Let's assume that another individual joins the team - the team will revert back to the "forming" stage as they learn how to work with the new team member; reestablishing team guidelines, finding their way again, and learning how to work cohesively as a team. Or, let's assume that Mohammed slips back into his old ways of keeping to himself and not sharing information with the team - this may cause the team to revert back to the "storming" stage.

It is important to remember that every team - regardless of what the team is working on - will follow these stages of team development. It is the job of the team leader to help see the team through these stages; to bring them to the point where they are working as effectively as possible toward a common goal.

  • The Team Handbook, 3rd Edition (Scholtes, Joiner, Streibel), Publisher: Oriel
  • Managing the Project Team (Vijay Verma), Publisher: PMI

Gina Abudi has over 15 years consulting experience in a variety of areas, including project management, process management, leadership development, succession planning, high potential programmes, talent optimisation and development of strategic learning and development programmes. She has been honoured by PMI as one of the Power 50 and has served as Chair of PMI's Global Corporate Council Leadership Team. She has presented at various conferences on topics ranging from general management and leadership topics to project management. Gina received her MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Gina Abudi. All rights reserved.


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Outback Team Building & Training

16 Team Building Case Studies and Training Case Studies

From corporate groups to remote employees and everything in between, the key to a strong business is creating a close-knit team. in this comprehensive case study, we look at how real-world organizations benefited from team building, training, and coaching programs tailored to their exact needs.  .

Updated: December 21, 2021

We’re big believers in the benefits of  team building ,  training and development , and  coaching and consulting  programs. That’s why our passion for helping teams achieve their goals is at the core of everything we do.

At Outback Team Building & Training,  our brand promis e  is  to be  recommended , flexible,  and  fast.  Because we understand that when it comes to building a stronger and more close-knit team, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Each of our customers have a unique set of challenges, goals, and definitions of success. 

And they look to us to support them in three key ways:  making their lives easy by taking on the complexities of organizing a team building or training event; acting fast so that they can get their event planned and refocus on all the other tasks they have on their plates, and giving them the confidence that they’ll get an event their team will benefit from – and enjoy.

In this definitive team building case study , we’ll do a deep dive into real-world solutions we provided for our customers.

4 Unique Team Building Events & Training Programs Custom-Tailored for Customer Needs 

1. a custom charity event for the bill & melinda gates foundation  , 2. how principia built a stronger company culture even with its remote employees working hundreds of miles apart , 3. custom change management program for the royal canadian mint, 4. greenfield global uses express team building to boost morale and camaraderie during a challenging project, 5 virtual team building activities to help remote teams reconnect, 1. how myzone used virtual team building to boost employee morale during covid-19, 2. americorps equips 90 temporary staff members for success with midyear virtual group training sessions, 3. how microsoft’s azure team used virtual team building to lift spirits during the covid-19 pandemic, 4. helping the indiana cpa society host a virtual team building activity that even the most “zoom fatigued” guests would love, 5. stemcell brightens up the holiday season for its cross-departmental team with a virtually-hosted team building activity, 3 momentum-driving events for legacy customers, 1. how a satellite employee “garnered the reputation” as her team’s pro event planner, 2. why plentyoffish continues to choose ‘the amazing race’ for their company retreat, 3. how team building helped microsoft employees donate a truckload of food, 4 successful activities executed on extremely tight timelines, 1. finding a last-minute activity over a holiday, 2. from inquiry to custom call in under 30 minutes, 3. a perfect group activity organized in one business day, 4. delivering team building for charity in under one week.

two colleagues assembling bookshelves for kids with a bookworm builders team building activity

We know that every team has different needs and goals which is why we are adept at being flexible and have mastered the craft of creating custom events for any specifications.  

five colleagues doing a custom charity team building event together at a table

When the  Seattle, Washington -based head office of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a world-renowned philanthropic organization – approached us in search of a unique charity event, we knew we needed to deliver something epic. Understanding that their team had effectively done it all when it comes to charity events, it was important for them to be able to get together as a team and give back  in new ways .

Our team decided the best way to do this was to create a brand-new event for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which had never been executed before. We created an entirely new charitable event – Bookworm Builders – for them and their team loved it! It allowed them to give back to their community, collaborate, get creative, and work together for a common goal. Bookworm Builders has since gone on to become a staple activity for tons of other Outback Team Building & Training customers! 

To learn more about how it all came together, read the case study:  A Custom Charity Event for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation .

nine colleagues sitting around a table doing an emotional intelligence group skills training program

Who said hosting an impactful training program means having your full team in the same place at the same time? Principia refused to let distance prevent them from having a great team, so they contacted us to help them find a solution. Their goals were to find better ways of working together and to create a closer-knit company culture among their 20 employees and contractors living in various parts of the country. 

We worked with Principia to host an  Emotional Intelligence  skill development training event customized to work perfectly for their remote team. The result was a massive positive impact for the company. They found they experienced improved employee alignment with a focus on company culture, as well as more emotionally aware and positive day-to-day interactions. In fact, the team made a 100% unanimous decision to bring back Outback for additional training sessions.

To learn more about this unique situation, read the full case study:  How Principia Built a Stronger Company Culture Even with its Remote Employees Working Hundreds of Miles Apart .

We know that employee training that is tailored to your organization can make the difference between an effective program and a waste of company time. That’s why our team jumped at the opportunity to facilitate a series of custom development sessions to help the Royal Canadian Mint discover the tools they needed to manage a large change within their organization. 

We hosted three custom sessions to help the organization recognize the changes that needed to be made, gain the necessary skills to effectively manage the change, and define a strategy to implement the change: 

  • Session One:  The first session was held in November and focused on preparing over 65 employees for change within the company. 
  • Session Two:  In December, the Mint’s leadership team participated in a program that provided the skills and mindset required to lead employees through change. 
  • Session Three:  The final session in February provided another group of 65 employees with guidance on how to implement the change. 

To learn more, read the full case study:  Custom Change Management Program for the Royal Canadian Mint .

Greenfield Global Uses Express Team Building to Boost Morale and Camaraderie During a Challenging Project

When Greenfield Global gathered a team of its A-Players to undertake a massive, challenging project, they knew it was important to build rapports among colleagues, encourage collaboration, and have some fun together.

So, we helped them host an Express Clue Murder Mystery event where their team used their unique individual strengths and problem-solving approaches in order to collaboratively solve challenges.

To learn more, read the full case study:  Greenfield Global Uses Express Team Building to Boost Morale and Camaraderie During a Challenging Project .

a group of colleagues participating in a virtual team building activity using zoom video conferencing

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, we were proud to be able to continue supporting our customers’ goals with virtual team building activities and group training sessions.

a group of 25 teammates doing a virtual team building activity together on zoom

With remote work being mandated as self-quarantine requirements are enforced on a global scale, companies began seeking ways to keep their newly-remote teams engaged and ensure morale remained as high as possible.

And MyZone was no exception. When the company found themselves feeling the effects of low employee morale and engagement, they noticed a decrease in productivity and motivation.

To make matters even more difficult, MyZone’s team works remotely with employees all over the world. This physical distancing makes it challenging for them to build a strong rapport, reinforce team dynamics, and boost morale and engagement.

The company was actively searching for an activity to help bring their employees closer together during this challenging time but kept running into a consistent issue: the majority of the team building activities they could find were meant to be done in person.

They reached out to Outback Team Building and Training and we were able to help them achieve their goals with a Virtual Clue Murder Mystery team building activity.

four colleagues taking part in a virtual group skills training program

AmeriCorps members are dedicated to relieving the suffering of those who have been impacted by natural disasters. And to do so, they rely on the support of a team of temporary staff members who work one-year terms with the organization. These staff focus on disseminating emergency preparedness information and even providing immediate assistance to victims of a disaster.

During its annual midyear training period, AmeriCorps gathers its entire team of temporary staff for a week of professional development seminars aimed at both helping them during their term with the company as well as equipping them with skills they can use when they leave AmeriCorps.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic got underway, AmeriCorps was forced to quickly re-evaluate the feasibility of its midyear training sessions.

That’s when they reached out to Outback. Rather than having to cancel their midyear training entirely, we were able to help them achieve their desired results with four virtual group training sessions: Clear Communication ,  Performance Management Fundamentals ,  Emotional Intelligence , and  Practical Time Management .

Find all the details in the full case study: AmeriCorps Equips 90 Temporary Staff Members for Success with Midyear Virtual Training Sessions.

How Microsofts Azure Team Used Virtual Team Building to Lift Spirits During the COVID 19 Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a significant toll on the morale of its employees, Microsoft’s Azure team knew they were overdue for an uplifting event.

It was critical for their team building event to help staff reconnect and reengage with one another. But since the team was working remotely, the activity needed to be hosted virtually and still be fun, engaging, and light-hearted.

When they reached out to Outback Team Building and Training, we discussed the team’s goals and quickly identified a Virtual Clue Murder Mystery as the perfect activity to help their team get together online and have some fun together.

For more information, check out the entire case study: How Microsoft’s Azure Team Used Virtual Team Building to Lift Spirits During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Helping the Indiana CPA Society Host a Virtual Team Building Activity That Even the Most Zoom Fatigued Guests Would Love

The Indiana CPA Society is the go-to resource for the state’s certified public accountants. The organization supports CPAs with everything from continuing education to networking events and even advocacy or potential legislation issues that could affect them.

But as the time approached for one of INCPAS’ annual Thanksgiving event, the Indiana CPA Society’s Social Committee needed to plan a modified, pandemic-friendly event for a group of people who were burnt out my online meetings and experiencing Zoom fatigue.

So, we helped the team with a Self-Hosted Virtual Code Break team building activity that INCPAS staff loved so much, the organization decided to host a second event for its Young Pros and volunteers.

For INCPAS’ Social Committee, the pressure to put on an event that everyone will enjoy is something that’s always on their mind when planning out activities. And their event lived up to their hopes.

For more information, check out the entire case study: Helping the Indiana CPA Society Host a Virtual Team Building Activity That Even the Most “Zoom Fatigued” Guests Would Love .

Stemcell Brightens Up the Holiday Season for its Cross Departmental Team with a Virtually Hosted Team Building Activity

When Stemcell was looking for a way to celebrate the holidays, lift its team members’ spirits, and help connect cross-departmental teams during the pandemic, they contacted us to help host the perfect team building activity.

They tasked us with finding an event that would help team members connect, get in the holiday spirit, and learn more about the business from one another during the midst of a stressful and challenging time.

So, we helped them host a festive, virtually-hosted Holiday Hijinks team building activity for employees from across the company.

For more information, check out the entire case study: Stemcell Brightens Up the Holiday Season for its Cross-Departmental Team with a Virtually-Hosted Team Building Activity .

a workgroup assembling a gift box to be sent to those in need with a philanthropic team building activity

We take pride in being recommended by more than 14,000 corporate groups because it means that we’ve earned their trust through delivering impactful results.

We’ve been in this business for a long time, and we know that not everybody who’s planning a corporate event is a professional event planner. But no matter if it’s their first time planning an event or their tenth, we  love  to help make our customers look good in front of their team. And when an employee at Satellite Healthcare was tasked with planning a team building event for 15 of her colleagues, she reached out to us – and we set out to do just that!

Our customer needed a collaborative activity that would help a diverse group of participants get to know each other, take her little to no time to plan, and would resonate with the entire group.

With that in mind, we helped her facilitate a  Military Support Mission . The event was a huge success and her colleagues loved it. In fact, she has now garnered a reputation as the team member who knows how to put together an awesome team building event.

To learn more, read the case study here:  How a Satellite Employee “Garnered the Reputation” as Her Team’s Pro Event Planner .

three colleagues grouped together outdoors doing an amazing race team building activity at their company retreat

In 2013, international dating service POF (formerly known as PlentyOfFish) reached out to us in search of an exciting outdoor team building activity that they could easily put to work at their annual retreat in  Whistler, B.C . An innovative and creative company, they were in search of an activity that could help their 60 staff get to know each other better. They also wanted the event to be hosted so that they could sit back and enjoy the fun.

The solution? We helped them host their first-ever  Amazing Race  team building event.

Our event was so successful that POF has now hosted The Amazing Race at their annual retreat for  five consecutive years .

To learn more, check out our full case study:  Why PlentyOfFish Continues to Choose ‘The Amazing Race’ for Their Company Retreat .

a large number of colleagues loading non perishable food items into a truck to be donated to charity as a result of their charitable team building activity

As one of our longest-standing and most frequent collaborators, we know that Microsoft is always in search of new and innovative ways to bring their teams closer together. With a well-known reputation for being avid advocates of corporate social responsibility, Microsoft challenged us with putting together a charitable team building activity that would help their team bond outside the office and would be equal parts fun, interactive, and philanthropic. 

We analyzed which of our six charitable team building activities would be the best fit for their needs, and we landed on the perfect one: End-Hunger Games. In this event, the Microsoft team broke out into small groups, tackled challenges like relay races and target practice, and earned points in the form of non-perishable food items. Then, they used their cans and boxes of food to try and build the most impressive structure possible in a final, collaborative contest. As a result, they were able to donate a truckload of goods to the local food bank.

For more details, check out the comprehensive case study:  How Team Building Helped Microsoft Employees Donate a Truckload of Food .

Time isn’t always a luxury that’s available to our customers when it comes to planning a great team activity which is why we make sure we are fast, agile, and can accommodate any timeline. 

Finding a Last Minute Team Building Activity Over a Holiday

Nothing dampens your enjoyment of a holiday more than having to worry about work – even if it’s something fun like a team building event. But for one T-Mobile employee, this was shaping up to be the case. That’s because, on the day before the holiday weekend, she found out that she needed to organize a last-minute activity for the day after July Fourth. 

So, she reached out to Outback Team Building & Training to see if there was anything we could do to help – in less than three business days. We were happy to be able to help offer her some peace of mind over her holiday weekend by recommending a quick and easy solution: a  Code Break  team building activity. It was ready to go in less than three days, the activity organized was stress-free during her Fourth of July weekend, and, most importantly, all employees had a great experience. 

For more details, check out the full story here:  Finding a Last-Minute Activity Over a Holiday .

From Inquiry to Custom Call in Under 30 Minutes

At Outback Team Building & Training, we know our customers don’t always have time on their side when it comes to planning and executing an event. Sometimes, they need answers right away so they can get to work on creating an unforgettable experience for their colleagues.

This was exactly the case when Black & McDonald approached us about a learning and development session that would meet the needs of their unique group, and not take too much time to plan. At 10:20 a.m., the organization reached out with an online inquiry. By 10:50 a.m., they had been connected with one of our training facilitators for a more in-depth conversation regarding their objectives.

Three weeks later, a group of 14  Toronto, Ontario -based Black & McDonald employees took part in a half-day tailor-made training program that was built around the objectives of the group, including topics such as emotional intelligence and influence, communication styles, and the value of vulnerability in a leader.

To learn more about how this event was able to come together so quickly, check out the full story:  From Inquiry to Custom Call in Under 30 Minutes .

A Perfect Group Activity Organized in One Business Day

When Conexus Credit Union contacted us on a Friday afternoon asking if we could facilitate a team building event for six employees the following Monday morning, we said, “Absolutely!” 

The team at Conexus Credit Union were looking for an activity that would get the group’s mind going and promote collaboration between colleagues. And we knew just what to recommend:  Code Break Express  – an activity filled with brainteasers, puzzles, and riddles designed to test the group’s mental strength. 

The Express version of Code Break was ideal for Conexus Credit Union’s shorter time frame because our Express activities have fewer challenges and can be completed in an hour or less. They’re self-hosted, so the company’s group organizer was able to easily and efficiently run the activity on their own.

To learn more about how we were able to come together and make this awesome event happen, take a look at our case study:  A Perfect Group Activity Organized in One Business Day .

Delivering Team Building for Charity in Under One Week

We’ve been lucky enough to work with Accenture – a company which has appeared on FORTUNE’s list of “World’s Most Admired Companies” for 14 years in a row – on a number of team building activities in the past. 

The organization approached us with a request to facilitate a philanthropic team building activity for 15 employees. The hitch? They needed the event to be planned, organized, and executed within one week. 

Staying true to our brand promise of being fast to act on behalf of our customers, our team got to work planning Accenture’s event. We immediately put to work the experience of our Employee Engagement Consultants, the flexibility of our solutions, and the organization of our event coordinators. And six days later, Accenture’s group was hard at work on a  Charity Bike Buildathon , building bikes for kids in need.

To learn more about how we helped Accenture do some good in a short amount of time, read the full case study:  Delivering Team Building for Charity in Under One Week .

Learn More About Team Building, Training and Development, and Coaching and Consulting Solutions 

For more information about how Outback Team Building & Training can help you host unforgettable team activities to meet your specific goals and needs on virtually any time frame and budget, just reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.  

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  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

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case study on group formation

In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

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Judge Tosses X/Twitter Case Against Group That Produced Study On Proliferation Of Hate Speech On Platform

A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by X/Twitter against a watching group that produced a study that examined the proliferation of hate speech on the platform.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer concluded that the platform, owned by Elon Musk, was attempting to chill the speech rights of the Center for Countering Digital Hate and other groups.

The judge wrote that X’s “motivation in bringing this case is evident. X Corp. has brought this case in order to punish [Center for Countering Digital Hate] for CCDH publications that criticized X Corp.-and perhaps in order to dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism.”

X/Twitter had sued the group, claiming that in doing their study, they unlawfully “scraped” the platform for its data that led to an exodus of advertisers.

“X disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal,” the company said.

Read the X decision .

Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of the watchdog group, wrote, “This ruling sends a strong message to those who aim at intimidating and silencing independent research.”

In his ruling, the judge even suggested that X/Twitter’s litigation had chilled other types of research into disinformation online. He pointed to a recent survey of 167 academics and researchers that “found that over 100 studies about X Corp. have been diverted, stalled, or canceled, with over half of those interviewed citing a fear of being sued by X Corp. over their findings or data." 

The judge also noted the similarities of this case to another one brought by X/Twitter against Media Matters for America, another watchdog group that published a study on the placement of ads on X next to inflammatory hate and racist posts.

Breyer wrote in a footnote, “If there is any question about the ‘punishing’ part, X Corp. filed a similar suit, not before this Court, in November of 2023 against Media Matters, another non-profit media watchdog, for ‘reporting on ads from major brands appearing next to neo-Nazi content.’ Prior to doing so, Musk threatened a ‘thermonuclear lawsuit’ against Media Matters.”

Breyer rejected X/Twitter’s arguments that the Center for Countering

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Comitative coordination: A case study in group formation

  • Published: May 1993
  • Volume 11 , pages 347–379, ( 1993 )

Cite this article

  • Louise Mcnally 1  

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36 Citations

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This paper argues that in Russian a (singular) NP can combine with a comitative PP to form a complex plural NP, and that this NP denotes a group in the sense of Landman (1989). A single-headed GPSG analysis of the construction is proposed and argued for, and the implications of the analysis for number agreement are discussed. The semantic properties of the construction (and its counterpart in Polish) are subsequently detailed and are compared with those of ‘ordinary’ NP coordination; the preliminary conclusion is that the construction differs both in denotation and in conventional meaning from NP coordination.

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This work has benefitted considerably from comments by many individuals, particularly Bill Ladusaw, Judith Aissen, Geoff Pullum, Sandy Chung, Peter Lasersohn, Chris Barker, Barbara Parlee, Maria Bittner, David Gil, Katarzyna Dziwirek, David Pesetsky and two anonymous reviewers. I am also grateful to Yelena Kraz, Boris Katok, Sheila Blust, Maria Bittner, Katarzyna Dziwirek, and Stefan Dyla for assistance with the data, and to audiences at the 1988 LSA Annual Meeting and the 1989 LSA Linguistic Institute, where earlier versions of this work were presented. Of course, I assume responsibility for all shortcomings in what follows. This research was supported by an NSF Graduate Fellowship, NSF grant BNS-8519708, and the Syntax Research Center at UCSC.

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Mcnally, L. Comitative coordination: A case study in group formation. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 11 , 347–379 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992917

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Received : 28 December 1990

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992917

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United States Institute of Peace

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Critical Minerals in Africa: Strengthening Security, Supporting Development, and Reducing Conflict amid Geopolitical Competition

USIP Senior Study Group Final Report

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 / By: USIP Senior Study Group on Critical Minerals in Africa

Publication Type: Report

Executive Summary

The United States Institute of Peace convened a senior study group to explore the role Africa plays in the United States’ efforts to diversify US critical mineral supply chains and how new investment in partnerships with African countries could help drive economic development and strengthen peace and security on the African continent. Based on meetings and interviews with relevant technical, operational, and policy experts, the study group developed multiple recommendations for the United States to support mutually beneficial public and private partnerships with African nations. These partnerships could help diversify critical mineral supply chains; strengthen the rule of law, transparency, and environmental and labor standards around African critical minerals; and foster peace and stability through greater US commercial engagement.

Principal Findings

US economic and national security depends on a reliable supply of critical minerals that underlie an array of products and services important to ever-changing modern economies. Yet for many critical minerals (e.g., cobalt, graphite, and manganese), the United States is heavily dependent on imports. Especially concerning is that the United States is at or near 100 percent reliant on “foreign entities of concern”—mainly the People’s Republic of China—for key critical minerals.

Global demand for many critical minerals is growing rapidly. Accelerated demand forecasts are largely based on assumptions regarding a global transition to nonfuel-based energy sources, including high-end batteries for electric vehicles and power storage. However, critical minerals are also essential to powering all manner of consumer electronics, medical supplies, and high-performance metals and engines, including those used for defense and military applications. Consequently, regardless of how market and policy factors may change the trajectory of an energy transition, demand for key critical minerals is very likely to grow as economies worldwide increasingly electrify and modernize. To avoid being shorthanded and vulnerable to export controls and potential market manipulation by geopolitical competitors, it is imperative for the United States to diversify its critical minerals supply chains.

Africa can play an important role in strengthening US critical minerals supply chain security. The United States and allied countries already depend on many critical minerals that are sourced from African countries. But increasing supply is not a simple matter. The development of natural resources on the continent has had a checkered past, and critical minerals are no exception. Ventures of the Russian-led paramilitary Wagner Group in Mali, Sudan, and elsewhere are cases in a long history of predatory mining activities in Africa. Thus, it should not be assumed that the global rush for critical minerals will be beneficial to African development and security. Here, the United States, its allies, and the private sector can play a positive role—including by offering a better alternative to an approach to extracting Africa’s critical minerals common to Chinese companies, which too often has offered little local value and has resulted in corruption and human rights abuses, including child labor exploitation. US mining and related companies could be much more engaged, however, as they remain largely absent from the continent. 

While the Biden administration and Congress have stepped up efforts to support US companies in African markets—by de-risking and otherwise supporting investments—progress is relative, and there is no indication that China and other competitors are retreating. In fact, the list of economic competitors in Africa is growing, with Gulf States and others intensifying their interest in African critical minerals. If the United States wants to remain competitive on the global stage, it must step up its efforts to diversify US critical minerals supply chains, including in Africa.  

Priority Recommendations

The study group reviewed US policy initiatives and explored key challenges, issues, and opportunities associated with meeting US critical minerals objectives, primarily with a focus on further engaging Africa and challenging China’s dominance. The group’s overarching conclusion is that the US government should act with increased speed, focus, and decisiveness to support Africans in equitably and responsibly developing critical minerals. In doing so, it should engage African countries in mutually beneficial partnerships aimed at bringing peace, prosperity, and community stability to African citizens. Forging such partnerships will not be easy, but doing so could establish the United States and its allies as Africa’s preferred partners in supporting the continent’s critical minerals development. 

Following is a list of 13 broad policy recommendations and actions developed by the study group to further US-Africa partnerships on critical minerals development and supply chain diversification:

  • Sharpen US-Africa policy with a focus on critical minerals. Given their importance to US economic and national security and African economic development, critical minerals merit being a top priority for US policy toward Africa. To execute this priority, the United States should design a comprehensive critical minerals strategy that aims to build mutually beneficial partnerships with Africans.
  • Empower African civil society and the media. The United States could bolster the involvement of African civil society in its efforts to build transparency and accountability in the critical minerals sector, including by providing more support for US Agency for International Development (USAID) activities and other US government programs.
  • Prioritize and leverage existing USAID programs to assist Africans with rule-of-law   and fiscal transparency efforts. The United States should enhance ongoing USAID efforts such as those supported through the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund. It could help African governments and civil society strengthen the rule of law, improve the business climate for responsible investors, and foster greater peace and community stability through better financial management of activities associated with critical minerals development.
  • Tactically address Chinese mining in Africa. Although the United States is competing with China, using tactical nuance in investment decision-making could further US policy goals. Of course, all potential relationships with companies must be thoroughly vetted to ensure compliance with human rights, child labor, environmental, and other high standards and laws, but a tangential Chinese connection alone—particularly involving basic services or infrastructure—should not necessarily disqualify a US firm from receiving US government support.
  • Prioritize prompt and full development of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United States, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Zambia. The US-DRC-Zambia MOU should be prioritized to fully realize its potential benefits. Transforming the memorandum into a productive partnership will require a significant US effort and dedicated resources. To be most successful, the MOU will also need the full engagement and guidance of the US private sector across the battery supply chain. Commercial diplomacy can play an important role in this effort.
  • Strengthen the impact of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). To make the most of its tools in the African critical minerals sector, the US government should sharpen the DFC’s impact by, for example, emphasizing strategic investments that will also meet developmental priorities and increase the corporation’s presence in Africa.
  • Mobilize the private sector to strengthen African infrastructure. Although budget constraints and other factors limit the United States’ ability to improve African infrastructure, tools exist to mobilize private US resources. For example, the United States could better utilize the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, DFC, Export-Import Bank, and US Trade and Development Agency to boost countries’ abilities to attract private infrastructure investment.
  • Invest in commercial diplomacy. The US government should practice more vigorous commercial diplomacy with a keen eye toward building critical minerals partnerships in Africa. Increasing the physical presence of diplomatic and commercial officers in mining centers is of utmost importance. For example, the United States should reopen a consulate in the city of Lubumbashi in the DRC and better resource the US Commercial Service.
  • Expand membership of the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) to include African partners. The United States is involved in several multinational partnerships involving critical minerals, including the MSP. The MSP was established in 2022 to generate public and private investment in critical minerals production, processing, and recycling, with the ultimate goal of diversifying and securing critical minerals supply chains. Currently, no African countries are included in the MSP.
  • Expand support for the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). The US Department of State and USAID should aggressively pursue increased private and public support for YALI—a highly competitive executive program for young Africans interested in leadership and entrepreneurial training. The program could enhance US-Africa critical minerals policy goals by better engaging US mining and engineering universities in exchange programs and the US diplomatic corps.
  • Assist Africans in building technical capacity in the mining sector. The United States should partner with Africans to support local critical minerals processing. This could be done in part by helping to establish technical assistance and training centers and regional processing centers—all while being alert to counterproductive critical minerals export policies.
  • Prioritize US national security interests in the context of US trade and investment policy. Policymakers should explore the extent to which US mining engagement efforts in Africa may be undercut by the Inflation Reduction Act, disincentivizing critical minerals investment and exports to the United States—exports US processing and manufacturing facilities will rely on for the foreseeable future.
  • Support efforts to address artisanal mining challenges. The United States should support efforts to increase benefits for artisanal workers and limit harm from artisanal mining. Yet it should do so while recognizing that formalization and punitive measures can be counterproductive—inadvertently harming artisanal miners and their communities if not carefully managed. 

Global critical minerals markets are rapidly evolving, driven by new policies and technologies.

Africans often express a sense of urgency when discussing their major opportunity to tap natural resources and fuel positive development—as the critical minerals of today may not be critical tomorrow. Given this sense of urgency and the United States’ strong interest in furthering its engagement on the continent, the potential for critical minerals partnerships that work for both Americans and Africans is high. For these partnerships to be successful, though, much more work is needed.

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A new USIP report emphasizes the importance of the United States government being engaged in the African critical minerals sector if it is to diminish its dependence on China and fortify its national security and foreign policy interests.

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In Congo, Peace Means a Halt to ‘Brutal, Illegal Mining’

In Congo, Peace Means a Halt to ‘Brutal, Illegal Mining’

Thursday, March 7, 2024

By: James Rupert

Pétronille Vaweka, a Congolese grandmother, has mediated local peace accords in her homeland’s wars. But now, she says, one of Africa’s longest, bloodiest conflicts can be solved only if the United States and other democracies “will wake up” to protect their own economic and security interests.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

By: Kanni Wignaraja

While some parts of the Afghan economy managed to stabilize in 2023, poverty continued to increase and now stands at 69 percent of the population. Kanni Wignaraja, director for Asia and the Pacific at the U.N. Development Programme, discusses UNDP’s efforts to build resilience in local markets and promote women-owned enterprises in Afghanistan; explores ways to navigate relations with the Taliban; and examines how the decline in international aid is affecting humanitarian efforts in the country.

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More than two years into Taliban rule, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world with some of the highest humanitarian needs. The situation has shown some signs of stabilizing over the last year — but many Afghan households are still struggling to procure basic needs, and many women have been driven from the workforce altogether. Unfortunately, financial troubles loom ahead, and the already beleaguered Afghan economy is now projected to decline. Combined with population growth and the influx of thousands of Afghans forced to return from neighboring Pakistan, this is a recipe for increased humanitarian need over the longer term in the absence of major structural and political reforms.

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    working on reading comprehension individually and with the group, summarizing in pairs, and taking a chapter test individually with some group help (see Appendix A for the chapter test procedure). This study takes a quantitative case study approach to investigate the variance in effectiveness between both types of group formation.

  7. Contrasting Automatic and Manual Group Formation: A Case Study in a

    Group formation is a complex problem that considers multiple personal characteristics and skills of individuals, and the complexity increases depending on the number of students enrolled in the course [].Moreover, the literature shows that the creation of diverse and cohesive groups of students enhances the learning process and the outcome of individual students [3, 5, 7, 12, 14].

  8. Effective Group Dynamics in E-Learning: Case Study

    We present a detailed case study collected over a two-year span to identify design ideas, structures, and perceptions of effective collaboration and performance. ... The Development of Group Identity in Computer and Face-to-Face Groups with Membership Change, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 4(2-3), pp. 153-178, 1996. Crossref. Google ...

  9. Students Group Formation Based on Case-Based Reasoning to Support

    the development of a Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) system to. cope with the processes of forming groups in which students. will be able to interact and work together. By querying the case base (CB ...

  10. Group Formation for Collaborative Learning

    This paper presents a systematic literature review (SLR) that investigates group formation, as a first step towards automated group formation for collaborative learning. Out of 105 papers selected for review, after using specific selection and a quality assessment method, a final list of 21 relevant studies was selected for analysis.

  11. Groups & Teams: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Groups & Teams

    A new book by Amy Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds describes the approach of 'big teaming' with a case study of a high-profile smart city. Open for comment; 0 Comments. ... Two studies show the importance of affirming team members' self-concept prior to team formation. This can help offset new members' concerns for social acceptance as ...

  12. Case Study: Student Perceptions of Groups & Teams in Leadership

    In particular, this course centered on learning about group and team processes from a research-based text, hypothetical case studies, and practical application on the part of the students via a semester-long group/team project. ... Six participants said their group or team reached the final stage of the group development process identified by ...


    This study investigated small and large student group dynamics, personal development, dissecting experience, and learning approaches in cadaveric laboratories at Colorado State University and Rocky Vista University. Student interviews (n = 20) and a case study with thematic analysis were performed in

  14. Group Formation: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches

    For slightly different results in a study of truck drivers, see Flittie and Nelson (1968), who probably did not study union truck drivers. ... Runcie, J.F. (1971a) "Social group formation in an occupation: a case study of the truck driver." Ph.D. dissertation Rutgers University. Google Scholar--- ( 1971b) "Truck driver jargon: sociological ...

  15. The Workplace Health Group: A Case Study of 20 Years of

    Abstract. The Workplace Health Group (WHG) was established in 1998 to conduct research on worker health and safety and organizational effectiveness. This multidisciplinary team includes researchers with backgrounds in psychology, health promotion and behavior, and intervention design, implementation, and evaluation.

  16. The Five Stages of Team Development: A Case Study

    Stage 4: Performing. In the "performing" stage, teams are functioning at a very high level. The focus is on reaching the goal as a group. The team members have gotten to know each other, trust each other and rely on each other. Not every team makes it to this level of team growth; some teams stop at Stage 3: Norming.

  17. Comitative Coordination: A Case Study in Group Formation

    A CASE STUDY IN GROUP FORMATION 351 In (7b), however, the PP cannot be associated with the indirect object, despite the fact that such an association is pragmatically reasonable; for one speaker, it could mean only that the speaker gave the gift and the gift's wife to Viktor. In this respect, Russian and English comitatives are

  18. How to Recognize the 5 Stages of Group Development

    Psychologist Bruce Tuckman developed his group development model in 1965 to explain how healthy teams cohere over time. Tuckman's model identifies the five stages through which groups progress: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Each of the five stages of team development represents a step on the team-building ladder.

  19. The impact of learning styles on student grouping for collaborative

    With this aim, a case study with 166 students of computer science has been carried out, from which conclusions are drawn. ... Wessner, M., Pfister, H.: Group formation in computer-support collaborative learning. In: Proceedings of the 2001 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, ACM Press. pp. 24-31. NY, USA (2001)

  20. Case Study Methodology of Qualitative Research: Key Attributes and

    A case study is one of the most commonly used methodologies of social research. This article attempts to look into the various dimensions of a case study research strategy, the different epistemological strands which determine the particular case study type and approach adopted in the field, discusses the factors which can enhance the effectiveness of a case study research, and the debate ...

  21. 16 Team Building Case Studies and Training Case Studies

    In this comprehensive case study, we look at how real-world organizations benefited from team building, training, and coaching programs tailored to their exact needs. Updated: December 21, 2021. We're big believers in the benefits of team building, training and development, and coaching and consulting programs. That's why our passion for ...

  22. What Is a Case Study?

    Revised on November 20, 2023. A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research. A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods, but quantitative methods are ...

  23. Judge Tosses X/Twitter Case Against Group That Produced Study On ...

    A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by X/Twitter against a watching group that produced a study that examined the proliferation of hate speech on the platform. U.S. District Judge Charles ...

  24. Remote Sensing

    Inland waters consist of multiple concentrations of constituents, and solving the interference problem of chlorophyll-a and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) can help to accurately invert total suspended matter concentration (Ctsm). In this study, according to the characteristics of the Multispectral Imager for Inshore (MII) equipped with the first Sustainable Development Goals Science ...

  25. Case Study

    USPS issued a contract to researchers at the University at Buffalo to develop the handwriting recognition technology. One year after implementation it saved the USPS $ 90 million by automatically processing, and barcoding for precise delivery, more than 25 billion letters. The 2009 Computing Community Consortium dubbed the project as "one of ...

  26. Comitative coordination: A case study in group formation

    Abstract. This paper argues that in Russian a (singular) NP can combine with a comitative PP to form a complex plural NP, and that this NP denotes a group in the sense of Landman (1989). A single-headed GPSG analysis of the construction is proposed and argued for, and the implications of the analysis for number agreement are discussed.

  27. Critical Minerals in Africa: Strengthening Security, Supporting

    The United States Institute of Peace convened a senior study group to explore the role Africa plays in the United States' efforts to diversify US critical mineral supply chains and how new investment in partnerships with African countries could help drive economic development and strengthen peace and security on the African continent. Based on meetings and interviews with relevant technical ...

  28. Case Studies: AT&T & IBM

    The antitrust litigation against AT&T and IBM are two of the most discussed (and celebrated) cases in U.S. history. Some claim that both decisions shaped the creation and development of the transistor and personal computer, while others believe the actual long-term impact of this enforcement was minimal. This case study panel discusses the consequences of both cases.