Email Communication and

Team Expectations 

45 min



Competencies: Communication, Conflict Management, Dividing Up the Work

Learning Objectives

  1. Leverage knowledge, skills, strengths, and diversity to develop innovative and inclusive approaches to design/project challenges.
  2. Devise a plan that manages team dynamics toward completing the work.
  3. Deploy effective communication strategies to manage collaboration and conflict within your team.
  4. Observe and assess behaviors that contribute to team challenges, successes, and failures.

Instructor Preparation

  1. Assign students to teams.
  2. Review the instructions and activity guide George P. Burdell the Missing Team Member.
  3. Distribute the activity guide to your students and set up an appropriate submission area on Canvas for the required deliverables.

Notes for Instructors

  • This unit was designed for students in first and second-year undergraduate courses and is part of the larger Effective Team Dynamics (ETD) curriculum.
  • Consider implementing this activity at the project’s midpoint, or after your students have been in teams for at least a week. At this point, your students should have drafted team plans or contracts and should have also completed the CliftonStrengths online assessment or otherwise had a discussion about the strengths of each team member.
  • For more information about the overall ETD curricular structure or partnering with us, please contact us or fill out the Request to Partner form.
  • Rubrics (in-class rubric, homework rubric) are included to help you evaluate the work that the students submit.

Outline & Timing

Option 1 (In-Class)

1. Introduce purpose of the class and distribute activity guide to students.

2. Begin steps of activity guide.

Step 1: Discuss common group dynamic concerns. (15 min)

  • Groups sit together in circles
  • One student records notes during the discussion.
  • Each student is assigned one of the six discussion questions, including the note taker. Students are responsible for getting peers to respond to their questions
  • Larger groups may ask pairs of students to read and vet responses to their question; members of smaller groups may be responsible for multiple questions.
  • Instructors may want to consider assigning question numbers to each member of the group or having students read and discuss questions in a sequential clockwise rotation.

Step 2: Write emails to Burdell. (10 min)

  • The team should write a sample email to Burdell as a group. The emails should communicate concerns regarding Burdell’s absence or unsatisfactory participation.
  • Consider the question of how best to introduce the subject. What evidence is appropriate to cite in this type of document? What tone should you use?
  • Variation: Instructors may wish to have students write these letters individually, and then exchange them with a peer to critique their success.

Steps 3 and 4: Critique emails to Burdell. (10 min)

  • As a team, discuss what makes the email examples included in the activity guide problematic or successful. How can they be improved? How can you avoid these same issues in your team communications?
  • Students should revise their team’s email based on this discussion.

2. Wrap up class. (2 min)

  • As a class, discuss the major take-aways about communicating with under-performing team members.
  • Ask a representative from each group to share their most important take-away from this activity with the class.
  • Each group’s note taker should submit an electronic document (.doc, .pdf, .txt) containing the email their team composed, as well as the notes from Step 1.
  • Rubrics are included to help you evaluate the work that the students submit.

Option 2 (Homework)

  • This assignment will be most impactful if done simultaneously during a team meeting where all teammates are present.
  • Assign student teams Steps 1-4 of the “George P. Burdell The Missing Teammate” activity guide.
  • Optional additional activity: You may wish to ask students to write a reflection about their personal experiences with absentee team members. What challenges did they experience in trying to communicate with Burdell? Do they feel comfortable or uncomfortable reaching out to problematic team members?
  • A rubric is included to help you evaluate the work that the students submit.

Activity Appearances

  • This activity is not part of an ETD-defined curriculum set and is designed to be completed by students in first or second year undergraduate courses.