Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Teaching Teamwork to College Students through Cooperative Learning: Faculty Attitudes and Instructional Best Practices
by Calhoun, Deborah C., Ph.D., Notre Dame of Maryland University, 2014, 261; 3616091
Abstract (Summary)

Employers highly value college graduates who have strong teamwork and interpersonal skills. In studies focused on employer priorities for college learning sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2008, 2010, and 2013, employers have stated that colleges should do more to prepare graduates to work effectively in a team-based work environment. Equally important is the empirical research which has demonstrated that cooperative learning has the ability to significantly enhance student learning. These benefits include higher academic achievement, better longterm retention of what is learned, enhanced ability to transfer learning from one situation to another and a more positive attitude toward the academic subject being studied. Lastly, the study of teamwork is important to the study of leadership, without a team of followers there is no leadership. Many college and university faculty have students work in cooperative groups and assign team projects in their courses. Unfortunately, most faculty do not realize that the development of effective teamwork knowledge, skills, and abilities takes time, education and training. Students need to be taught how to work cooperatively in teams; these skills do not naturally develop on their own.

The purpose of this descriptive study was to investigate the differences between what the research literature identifies as cooperative learning and teamwork instructional “best practices” and what postsecondary faculty in a variety of academic disciplines actually do when employing groups or teams in their courses. An additional research objective was to gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to any differences discovered. In order to take a first step toward answering these questions a web-based survey of full-time faculty, both liberal arts and professional, employed at ten different Maryland colleges and universities was conducted.

An analysis of the data collected revealed that a preponderance of the faculty assigned cooperative work and team assignments for student centered reasons; they want their students to learn teamwork skills and course content. Yet the majority of the faculty implement very few of the cooperative learning and teamwork instructional “best practices” discussed in the academic literature. In other words, students were assigned to course teams with little forethought, preparation, or guidance from faculty and many of the assignments utilized were not properly designed for student group/team learning. The research suggests a majority of faculty harbor misconceptions about how students learn teamwork skills and do not realize that their own knowledge of cooperative learning and teamwork as well as of the best instructional practices was very limited. Lastly, the research uncovered several statistically significant relationships among the use of cooperative groups, team projects and instructional “best practices” and with faculty teamwork self-efficacy, collectivism values, motivation, attitude and to a lesser degree with faculty teamwork KSAs and demographics.

By gaining a better understanding of faculty confidence and competence to teach and coach effective cooperative learning and teamwork within their classrooms, colleges and universities will be able to develop meaningful instructional aids, mentoring programs and professional development opportunities which support faculty in the effective facilitation of meaningful group exercises and team projects in their courses. In so doing, the college student’s attitude toward future team opportunities will be more positive and the likelihood increased that effective teamwork skills will be developed and more likely transferred to future professional situations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Snyder, Angela L.
Commitee: Mahoney, Margaret E., Manning, Tracey T.
School: Notre Dame of Maryland University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 75/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Instructional Design, Pedagogy, Organizational behavior
Keywords: College, Cooperative, Faculty, Learning, Pedagogy, Teamwork
Publication Number: 3616091
ISBN: 9781303828768
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