Good team assignments are essential for team-based learning (Michaelsen et al., 2004). Michaelsen et al. note the vast majority of dysfunctional student behaviors and complaints related to teamwork are the result of bad assignments, not bad teams.
Well-designed team assignments and activities, in intentionally designed courses, contribute significantly to the success of team processes and outcomes. A variety of instructional strategies can be incorporated into courses and team assignments and activities, to improve the quality of the collaboration, the quality of the final project, and enable a deeper and broader understanding of the course content.
Team assignments need to be approached differently than individual assignments. An individual assignment should not be assigned to teams without significant modifications. Teamwork involves more complex learning challenges. It requires more time and flexible interpersonal communication skills to define tasks and goals, and negotiate shared responsibility, decision-making, and conflicts. To engage students in meaningful collaborative learning experiences, and to get the best results from team activities and assignments, we need to provide appropriate learning supports. Learning supports include nurturing learner relationships, scaffolding communication skills, setting only relevant, authentic teamwork tasks, providing sufficient learning time, and individualizing assessment components (Brindley et al., 2009).