Why Team Contracts?
Team contracts are agreements made between project team members. Their primary functions are to encourage personal and collective accountability, develop collaboration skills, and allow group members to create a plan of action for the project work.
High quality team contracts often include:
Scaffolding Team Contract Creation
Facilitators need to support student collaboration during the team contract creation process. Some ways for facilitators to scaffold team contract creation are:
- Provide a clear template for the contract that teams can easily access and complete collaboratively
- Use a protocol to scaffold team conversations and ensure each team member has contributed to contract creation
- Provide guidelines, such as asking students to generate different strengths and areas of growth for each project or changing up roles from a past project
- Move around the room from group-to-group during contract creation, asking clarifying questions and encouraging input from all group members
Team roles should be specific to your content area and tasks and processes for a given project. As you design PBL or PrBL units, switch up team roles for each project to keep things fresh.
Thoughtful roles seek to scaffold equitable participation in project work, and should reflect ways in which team members can consistently and actively contribute throughout the project.
However, team roles are not a substitute for project management. Facilitators should provide and support teams in the use of project management tools, such as:
- Project Management Log
- Online project management tools, such as Trello
- Kanban Boards (article from PBL Works)
- Staying on Task During Project Based Learning (video from Edutopia)
But what about firing team members?
New Tech Network recommends against the inclusion of firing in team contracts.
As we’ve looked at patterns of firing across the network, we’ve noticed two things: it’s predictable what type of students will be fired - often students who are already struggling or disenfranchised - and when firing is an option, the focus becomes more on refining processes to exclude rather than scaffolding inclusion. Because of this, NTN has shifted our stance on firing. The preponderance of evidence shows that firing is not in the best interest of students because of how firing plays out in reality the overwhelming majority of the time.
Alternatively, facilitators should ask themselves, “How do we better hold student teams accountable for ensuring the success of all of their members?” Outside of perhaps a serious scenario where a student is moved to another group, classroom teachers can design collaboration supports to keep all team members accountable.
Ideas for ensuring the success of all team members include:
- Culture-building practices from the NTN Culture Practices Card Set. Project designers should build in practices such as The Paseo, Empathy Map Canvas, Recognize Your Triggers, Community Circles, WOOP, and Peace Paths. These practices cultivate a healthy classroom culture that supports social and emotional development.
- Use of project management tools, such as a Project Management Log or kanban board.
- Bookend lessons to scaffold collaboration and oral communication skills (see NTN Assessment Practices Cards).
- Structuring team interactions, using protocols such as Three Levels of Text, Start Stop Continue, What? So What? Now What?, Chalk Talk, and others from the NTN Learner-Centered Practices Card Set.
- Use of the Peer Assessment Tool in Echo for team member feedback throughout a PBL or PrBL unit. Check out the What is a peer assessment and how do I add one to my course? article for more information about this tool.
See this Team Contracts Resource for examples of elementary, middle, and high school team contracts.