Team Labs

Along with Team Meetings, TAs are responsible for leading weekly lab meetings. These lab sessions are about 2 hours long and is the best time to get work done as a team. This time in lab can be used as best fit, but here are a few suggestions.

Icebreakers

Because labs are about 2 hours long, there is extra time to build team moral and identity by keeping a loose and casual working environment. TAs can begin labs by chatting with the team to ease any stress of the course. Icebreakers are also a great way to create a relaxed environment and allowing the team to get comfortable with each other. Find examples of successful icebreakers by navigating to warm-ups.

Review team building information at Creating a Welcoming Environment

Working Sessions and Live Coding

The lab session may be the only face to face time that team members get with each other so the majority of the time in lab should be devoted to working sessions where sub-teams can work together. Separating the team in to sub-teams during the lab will make organizing the lab easier as well.

During the working sessions, TAs are meant to be a resource for the team. TAs should be prepared to problem solve and answer questions from team members.

Retrospectives

Labs are also a great time to conduct short sprint retrospectives. Because labs are in person and mentors are not present, team members may feel more comfortable sharing their feedback on the course and project. Devote lab time every two weeks, before starting a new sprint, to having a discussion on:

  1. Things that are going well

  2. Things that can be improved

  3. Large red flags that call for immediate attention

The student’s Retrospective Sprint Reports will support your sprint cycle and the conversations you are having in your team retrospective.

Learn more about sprint retrospective at Agile Training

Lab Planning

As the TA, you get to design your labs to drive your project. This is valuable time to complete work, collaborate, and hold discussions with the entire team each sprint.

How do you plan a lab for students?

Before Lab

  1. Identify which part of the Agile ceremony should be covered.

  2. Identify goal(s) of the lab.

    1. Clearly state what you want to accomplish using SMART goals. What goals can you move from the product backlog to the current sprint?

  3. Plan the activities and sequence. Specific plans will vary by your project. Below is an example.

    1. Daily Stand-Up (low-stress). Students will answer three questions. What did I do yesterday? What will I do today? Finally, do I have any blockers?

    2. Discussion on what tasks need to be worked on. Share the goals from step 1. and complete any demonstrations if needed.

    3. Work time.

    4. Allow discussion between the team.

  4. Create a realistic timeline. Lab is only 2 hours.

  5. Plan for a lab closure such as a conclusion of work completed and assignments or a group discussion.

During Lab

  1. Icebreaker, if applicable.

  2. Attendance.

  3. Lab time!

  4. Remember to ask for questions before dismissing the team. "What questions do y’all have?"

After Lab

  1. Reflect on what worked well and why. What could you have done differently?

Repeat the process each week using reflection and collecting feedback to improve your labs.

Remember, you are the leader.

FAQs

How long do labs last?

Labs are 1 hour and 50 minutes long every week (ex. 9:30am to 11:20am).

Is attendance at labs required?

Yes, students and TAs are required to attend lab meetings.

What if during a lab session, a TA does not know how to answer a question?

Use the support of The Data Mine staff to help answer any difficult questions. It is encouraged to schedule meetings with The Data Mine staff, but their office doors may open and they are willing help right away.

Will corporate partner mentors be at labs?

No, unless there is a special circumstance, corporate partners do not attend lab sessions.