Promoting Team Learning in the Classroom

Promoting Team Learning in the Classroom

Lila Holt (University of Tennessee, USA) and Mary F. Ziegler (University of Tennessee, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/javet.2011070101
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Abstract

The new workplace is a key arena for learning in today’s society. The spiraling demand for knowledge in the workplace has increased interest in learning, especially team learning. Team learning can be viewed from multiple perspectives, making it difficult for career and technical educators (CTEs) to know how to prepare students for a team-based work environment, especially one that includes virtual teams. In addition, emerging technology adds to the confusion about how to provide effective learning experiences that mirror what is occurring in the workplace. To prepare the workforce of tomorrow, CTE instructors can become facilitators of team learning by providing ample opportunity for learners to practice team skills in a low-risk learning environment. By providing the exposure and practice to team learning skills and technology tools, CTEs may help equip students with added skills in entering a global workplace.
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Introduction

The new workplace is a key arena for learning in today’s society. Because of the rapid pace of change brought about by new forms of work, globalization, and technological advances, learning the need for learning is pervasive in all types of organizations. The speed of change influences workplaces whether they are businesses, governmental agencies, health care organizations, not-for-profit groups, or educational institutions. The spiraling demand for knowledge in the workplace has increased interest in learning, especially team learning. Fenwick (2008) notes that prior to 1990 most of the literature viewed learning in the workplace as an individual experience. Since then, concepts such as the “learning organization” (Senge, 1990), Total Quality Management (Deming, 2000) and criteria for “high-performing teams” (Dyer, W & Dyer, J, 1987) have shifted the focus from the individual as the learner to the team as the learner. “Twenty-first century organizations will need to be highly nimble, capable of deploying spontaneous teams of employees within ever-changing organizational configurations in response to shifting market conditions” (Raelin, 2008, p. 11). In instances where individuals do not have sufficient knowledge to solve problems teams outperform the individual (Scholtes, Joiner, & Streibel, 2003). Not only is team learning prevalent in most workplaces, workers are now required to be on teams with members in other states or even countries. Yet team learning can be viewed from multiple perspectives making it difficult for career and technical educators (CTEs) to know how to prepare students for a team-based work environment, especially one that includes virtual teams. In addition, emerging technology adds to the confusion about how to provide effective learning experiences that mirror what is occurring in the workplace.

“Career and technical education is about preparing people, young and old, for the world of work” (Wang, 2010, p. 72). The world of work requires not only traditional skills, but also includes the ability to learn in teams. Although most areas of curriculum in career and technical education focus on individual achievement, increasingly learning as a team has become a foundational skill. How do teams learn and how can technology help instructors integrate team learning into the CTE curriculum? We propose to address these questions by reviewing the concept of team learning, identifying research that contributes to understanding team learning from multiple perspectives, describing recent technological advances that have the potential to enhance team learning, and providing implications and recommendations for the encouragement of team learning by CTEs.

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