The concept of work teams has received much attention in the hospitality and tourism industry. Companies such as Taco Bell, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Accor North America, and the Peabody Hotel have reported teamwork success stories (Bartlett, Probber, & Monammed, 1999; Frash Jr., Kline, & Stahura, 2004; Wolfe & Gould, 2001). Higher education hospitality programs have also discovered the power of teams. Many programs have sought to emphasize team-based learning experiences where students can practice collaboration skills and communication processes they will employ in the workplace (Cho, Schmelzer, & McMahon, 2002; Frash Jr. et al., 2004; LaLopa, Jacobs, & Hu, 1999; Postel, 1992). Many researchers have discussed the issues of team-based learning in the classroom, including the team selection process (Colbeck, Campbell, & Bjorklund, 2000; LaLopa, Jacobs, & Countryman, 1999; Muir & Tracy, 1999; Susskind & Borchgrevink, 1999); grading procedures, such as peer evaluation (Getty, 1996; Hass, Hass, & Wotruba, 1998); establishing team policies (LaLopa & Jacobs, 1998), and the effects of several team-related variables including individual ability, national diversity, gender diversity, and team size on team performance (Bacon, Stewart, & Stewart-Bell, 1998). However, little research has focused on factors affecting students' attitudes about teamwork. Wolfe and Gould (2001) indicated that students' attitudes toward teamwork improved after working in teams. Su (2004) explored the impact of teachers' grading methods on students' attitudes toward team-based learning, and revealed that students tend to project a more positive attitude toward team-based learning when the contingent grading method was used.
In order to understand the internal mechanism affecting students' attitudes toward team-based learning, two team-related variables--individual ability and favorable team member scores--were examined. The purpose of this study was to determine if the impact of individual ability and favorable team member scores on students' preferences of team-based learning and grading methods is mediated by students' perceived course importance. The correlation between perceived course importance and social loafing was also examined. An improved understanding of factors affecting students' attitudes toward team-based learning can help instructors adjust their methods of course administration and team assignment to achieve greater fairness and provide each team with its best chance for success.
In today's increasingly dynamic environment, the team concept has become a key to success for businesses, including those in hospitality and tourism. A team can be defined as "a collection of two or more individuals assembled for a common purpose, share a temporal exercise (past, present, or future), and interact with one another yet remain independent in some form or another" (Susskind & Borchgrevink, 1999). Cooper and Mueck (1990) defined team-based learning as "a structured, systematic, instructional strategy in which small groups work together toward a common goal" (p. 70). In the literature, different terms such as cooperative learning, collaborative learning, student groups, student teams, group learning, and small group learning all share the same definition with team-based learning (Bartlett et al., 1999; Frash Jr. et al., 2004; Getty, 1996; Jacobs, LaLopa, & Sorgule, 2001; Levi & Cadiz, 1998; Meyers, 1997; Smith & MacGregor, 2000; Springer, Stanne, & Donavon, 1999).
Team-based learning has broad applicability in many hospitality sectors, such as The Taco Bell Corporation, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Accor North America, and Peabody Hotel, as a way to strengthen market share, reduce employee turnover or execute a Total Quality Management Program (Bartlett et al., 1999; Frash Jr. et al. …