Leveraging Natural Talents in Team Projects


Students are prompted to recall their individual and collective natural talents when developing a team charter that describes how a team plans to work together to accomplish its goal(s) for a class project.


Working in teams is a widespread and important part of today’s academic and workplace environments. Yet, teams often fail to meet their objectives and/or team members feel frustrated with the experience. Research in positive psychology suggests that identifying and using natural talents increases individuals’ engagement and achievement. Learning how to thrive in team settings will benefit students in other courses and in their future careers.


At the start of a team project, spend one class period total:

  1. Discussing the benefits of team projects and why you chose to make the assignment a team project, rather than an individual effort. What are you hoping students will learn?
  2. Asking students to share the attributes of their prior good and bad group work experiences.
  3. Helping team members get to know each other in a low-stakes way through guided prompts (e.g., Is this the hardest class you are taking this semester? Are you a morning person or a night owl?). This establishes open communication between team members up front.
  4. Having teams create team charters that describe the team’s goals, roles, responsibilities, and norms. See template in resources below.

To help students leverage their individual and collective natural talents when developing the team charter:

  1. Prior to the class period where students work on the team charter, each student submits a one-page reflection on using their natural talents to be successful in group projects. Example prompts include, “Think about a time where you were really engaged and/or successful with a team project. What was your role on the team? Now review the team project for this course. How could you apply your natural talents to help the team be successful?”
  2. As students develop their team charters during class, explicitly prompt them to discuss their individual and collective natural talents as they consider and assign both team roles (traits important to the functioning of the team) and team responsibilities (project-specific tasks).

Student Feedback

I implemented this strategy for the first time in spring 2020, right before the transition to remote learning. Despite the drastic interruption to the semester, many students indicated that their groups communicated well and maintained clear expectations. Several students specifically highlighted the value of using their natural talents. For example, feedback on an interim assessment included, “I liked how our group was open to talking and interacting with each other. I appreciate how each member can talk about the strengths that they can incorporate in their work to make our project better as a whole.” and “I also like that we are all contributing in not only the basic information and research expected of us but also in our areas of strength that we mentioned in our group charter at the beginning of the formation of our group. It is reassuring that even though there are areas I am lacking in, my group members are there to balance that out and there are things I can help contribute so that we are all on even ground together."

Recommended Resources

Contact Information

Amanda Gonzales, Associate Professor of Practice, College of Business

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Amanda, this is wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I love to see your Seacrest project in action. :)

Hi Amanda, Do you assign groups or do you let the students self-select based on reflections?

Thanks for your question. The spring was the first time I tried this and I pre-assigned the groups before even receiving the reflections, primarily so I could more easily compare outcomes to previous semesters (where I assigned groups). If you try this and allow students to self-select, I'd love to hear about your experience!