Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

How teens learn teamwork: Agentic and constructive peer processes
by Perry, Stephen Cole, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015, 110; 3740534
Abstract (Summary)

Teamwork is widely proclaimed as a valuable contemporary skill set. Youth programs provide distinct opportunities for young people to develop collaborative competencies.

The current study examines the developmental experiences of teamwork in a residential summer camp setting. This dissertation analyzes youth’s narratives about learning collaborative skills in a service program for teens at Camp Clore.

The data for this project includes 50 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with teenage participants in the Clore Corps, who ranged in age from 14 to 16. Modified grounded theory methods facilitated the use of narrative data from the youth themselves. This study examines the conscious ways teenagers learn teamwork, especially in terms of their agentic involvement in constructive processes of learning from peers.

The findings address the general question of how youth learn teamwork and the grounded theorization of positive processes in youth programs. Highlighting the roles of agency and peers, the analysis illustrates the rich diversity of ways that youth learn teamwork. Youth reiterated prosocial values as they found many ways to reconcile task challenges with complex interpersonal dynamics. Two categories of learning episodes were distinguished by youth’s orientation toward their peers as they learned: Peers as People and Peers as Exemplars. Each of these sets of learning episodes received its own inductive, within-category analysis on the basis of their shared features. Youth acknowledging the human qualities of their peers was a pivotal motivation for accommodating and accepting in the Peers-as-People learning episodes. This allowed youth to restrain judgment and collaborate successfully with peers. For the Peers-as-Exemplars category, in contrast, youth actively drew on the example of their peers work and evaluated them. The evaluative processes stimulated learner’s imaginative generation of skills, attitudes, insights, and principles of teamwork.

A prominent theme across both episode categories was youth’s creativity and strategy as they learned teamwork. Youth demonstrated these qualities by drawing on peers as resources and actively developing teamwork knowledge and skills. Creative and strategic choices, intentions, and courses of action and thought in youth’s teamwork constituted agency in their development. Peers’ input in learning, moreover, was not absorbed or spread via contagion; rather, youth described making use of peers’ involvement to determine their own course. The theme of creativity and strategy across episodes establishes agentic processes in conjunction with constructive peer processes, not despite or in addition to them. The contribution of this dissertation, then, sheds light on how youth learn prosocial skills in a way that is, at once, both agentic and constructively peer-driven.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Larson, Reed W.
Commitee: Buillion Diaz, Lisa, Kwon, Soo Ah, Raffaelli, Marcela
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department: Human & Community Development
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Adolescence, Adolescent development, Cognition, Cognitive development, Peers, Positive development, Positive youth development, Teamwork, Teens, Youth development, Youth programs
Publication Number: 3740534
ISBN: 978-1-339-32651-1
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