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Tool for reflection on interdisciplinary teamwork

This tool can be used to spark reflection about behaviour among collaborators in interdisciplinary education and research. This stimulates behavioural change to improve the collaboration and integration in interdisciplinary teamwork.

When you work with interdisciplinary teams, you will notice that people can exhibit different types of behaviours that affect collaboration and integration. Becoming aware of behaviours can be a first step towards making a behavioural change and improving the teamwork. This tool supports exactly that process. 

The tool consists of a video and different exercises to spark individual and group reflection that you can use in your education or in interventions for teamwork in research. You let the team that you guide watch the video which introduces four typical behaviours. You use the reflection exercises prior to and/or after watching the video to let them get started with applying these concepts to their own practice. We invite and encourage educators and managers of interdisciplinary research projects to use our materials in their own educational or research context. 

The theoretical underpinnings can be found in the article: 'Epistemic stability and epistemic adaptability: interdisciplinary knowledge integration competencies for complex sustainability issues'. It provides a detailed description of behaviours in interdisciplinary teamwork and competencies for knowledge integration. In complement to the video, this article can be shared with collaborators in interdisciplinary teamwork to further their understanding of their behaviour and its effect on the collaboration and integration in their team.

4 typical behaviours within an interdisciplinary team

This video describes 4 typical behaviours that collaborators may display in interdisciplinary teamwork. 

It invites you to reflect on behaviours that you exhibit yourself, or observe in your team. This contributes to better understanding of dynamics in a team, the effect that team members’ behaviour has on interdisciplinary knowledge integration, and how to take matters in your own hands to manage interdisciplinary teamwork.

Reflection exercises

  • Reflection questions

    To structure the reflections on behaviours in teamwork, you can implement written reflection exercises. These questions provide inspiration for possible reflection questions that you can use. We have noticed that it was particularly important to make the questions very specific and to include follow-up probing questions in the exercise description to stimulate asking 'the question behind the question'.

  • Learning goals and protocols

    In order to stimulate collaborators to translate their reflections about their behaviour into behavioural change, you can have them define learning goals and learning protocols. You can use this template to create a learning activity around learning goals and learning protocols. Key in this exercise is that they translate their insights about their behaviour into a concrete, feasible learning goal that they can work on through making a small-scale intervention in a single meeting or context. 

    In our master level course, students got green light to put their protocol to practice if their teachers deemed their protocol of sufficient specificity, relevance, and feasibility. Each student required at least one round of feedback from the teaching staff before their learning goals and protocols were sufficiently concrete, well-defined, and demarcated to start implementation. They completed part 2 of the exercise (a reflection on the implementation) after they had made their behavioural intervention.

  • Group reflection formats

    As the four behavioural types are about collaboration in a team, it is valuable to not only reflect individually on the behaviour that any collaborator demonstrates, but also on the team dynamics. Therefore, you can also implement group reflections to jointly make sense of the behaviours that are represented in the team. It should be noted that there is a normativity to the behavioural types, in which some types are more favourable for teamwork than others. Therefore, the characterizations should be handled with care in group conversations.

    We have used the following formats for group reflections in our course:

    • Peer feedback: collaborators give each other feedback in relation to the four behaviours and two sets of competencies for interdisciplinary teamwork and integration. Moderation proved helpful to guard the concreteness and specificity of feedback - have students share examples, for instance – and create a safe setting for constructive feedback. We saw that the students in our courses could be quite harsh to each other, but more often actually refrained from giving any points of improvement. They seemed to want to prevent being impolite or hurting the person to whom they were giving feedback. Striking a balance that is both critical and constructive is thus an important challenge, and one that educators and project managers can play a role in. 
    • Interactive group discussion: In an interactive, semi-structured and moderated group discussion we addressed questions such as: how do the behaviours between you as collaborators affect the teamwork? What prevents you from reaching knowledge integration? What is your own role in that? What do you need from others to further the teamwork?