Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Preparing Students for Collaborative Work or Case Studies: An Anticipatory Case

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Preparing Students for Collaborative Work or Case Studies: An Anticipatory Case

Article excerpt


Faculty can address problems associated with team development and collaborative work activities by using appropriate in-class exercises before the activities or assignments begin. This paper provides a three-part case and teaching notes designed for in-class discussion before teams begin work on projects or case studies. Part A of the case introduces the students in a fictional auditing course who have been asked to prepare a collaborative case study analysis that will require research, written analysis, and a final oral presentation. Part B summarizes team interactions during the project and describes the condition of the project 2 days before the final presentation is due. Part C is a reflective section that encourages students to look inward at how their own group performed in the discussions of Parts A and B, and then asks students to participate in developing a collaborative work rubric that develops a shared understanding of expected team behaviors and interactions. The Teaching Note section provides recommendations for class facilitation, a review of collaborative work research, and examples of assignment outcomes.


As faculty respond to the growing body of educational research that supports the positive connection between cooperative learning and achievement of learning outcomes, team activities and projects are becoming more common in business and economics programs. However, students often enter such activities with negative attitudes toward teamwork because of their predisposition to working alone, or because of previous negative experiences with teams. Common frustrations with teamwork include dealing with procrastinators, dealing with "hitchhikers", dealing with ineffective team leadership, and mediating conflict between team members. Therefore, it is necessary for faculty who use team experiences in their courses to help students understand team dynamics and to include illustrative team development activities.

This paper will present a class-tested team development case and teaching notes designed to foster team development. The three-part case engages students in a discussion of the potential problems of managing teams and team projects by presenting a case that anticipates the actual work students will perform. It facilitates team development by (1) identifying typical project management or team process problems, (2) alerting students to appropriate and inappropriate team behaviors, and (3) allowing student teams to participate in generating the behavioral descriptions that identify very high, moderate, or very low achievement of collaborative work skills.


Using teams to encourage cooperative or active learning have been recognized as positively affecting achievement at the K-12 and college levels (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Qin, Johnson & Johnson, 1995; Cooper, 1996; Riordan, Street, and Roof, 1997). Moreover, cooperative methods have been recognized as an effective way to motivate students to become actively involved in learning (Michaelsen, 1992; Ravenscroft, 1997). Not surprisingly, cooperative and active learning methods have been embraced by both college educators and external stakeholders as a way to engage students and to foster cooperation often required in the workplace (AECC, 1990 & 1992; Ravenscroft, 1997).

Despite the research support for active and cooperative learning methods, getting teams to work well--often an important objective of the method--is not easy. Experience tells both instructors and students that group work often ends up uncomfortable and frustrating. Feichtner & Davis (1992, p. 59) assert that "Entirely too many students are leaving the classroom experiencing only the frustrations of group work and not the numerous benefits possible through team effort" (emphasis in the original). Lack of individual accountability is one reason given for bad group experiences (Feichtner & Davis, 1992; Ravenscroft, Buckless, McCombs, and Zuckerman, 1995; Cooper, 1996). …

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