Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Group Work and Leadership: Perception of FCS Students

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Group Work and Leadership: Perception of FCS Students

Article excerpt

No known studies have examined the perception of family and consumer science (FCS) students related to group work in the classroom and its relationship to leadership. In this qualitative study, two groups of FCS students-hospitality management and dietetics-viewed group projects as exercises in leadership skills that had many barriers. Additionally, students voiced concerns about the transferability of classroom group leadership experiences to the workplace. Strategies that faculty can use to assist in student leadership development through group work are described in this article. Suggestions are provided for new research areas in student leadership.

Educators in family and consumer science (FCS) college courses have integrated group work, including group projects, to help students develop leadership skills, group skills, and critical thinking skills. Compared to what students produce individually, group work often results in superior projects. Starting as early as elementary school, students are introduced to group work and expected to work effectively in groups (Beale, 2003).

Identified benefits of group work have included enhanced learning of material (McCorkle et al., 1999) and improved group skills (McKinney & Graham-Buxon, 1993). However, problems such as grading issues, group-think, unequal participation, and free-riding exist with group projects (Brooks & Ammons, 2003; Janis, 1982; McCorkle et al., 1999; Sutton, 1995).

Leadership models and theories incorporate group work facilitation. Successfully facilitating group work was identified as an important leadership skill and behavior by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2002) and Kouzes and Posner (1987). Kouzes and Posner found a leader's ability to enable others and advance group work to be the most important leadership behavior. Hoover (2002) supported using shared emergent-leadership as a way to "foster leadership skills in each student in the class." Students report that the classroom is one context where they frequently exhibit leadership behaviors (Arendt & Gregoire, 2005). Researchers (Arendt & Gregoire, 2005; Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkardt, 2001; Pugh, 2001) concluded that the participation in leadership education improved leadership skills and leadership behaviors. Walker (2006) described leadership education during an introductory FCS course.

Research on leadership is extensive; Gregoire and Arendt (2004) reviewed some of these works. However, leadership works are not widely reported in FCS. A leadership article by Love (2005) noted the importance of having FCS leaders tackle complex issues such as obesity. Schuchardt (2006) emphasized the need for FCS professionals to improve the common good through leadership. Hollingsworth, Brewer, and Petty (2002) found a significant relationship between leadership orientation and work ethic in FCS Extension educators.

Although not much is published on the use of a systems model in FCS education, systems theory is recognized in many areas including science and education (Chen & Stroup, 1993). Systems theory describes a process of transforming inputs into outputs. Bertalanffy is credited with the development of the General Systems Theory in the early 190Os (Bertalanffy, 1969). Maccia and Maccia (1966) utilized systems theory to develop educational theory for schools. Later, King and Frick (1999) applied the systems model and further developed it for educational use. King and Frick (1999) identified system's components (inputs, outputs, transformations) within the educational environment and have purported the need for systems thinking in redesigning schools to develop lifelong learners.

The systems model was utilized in this study to explain group work from students' perspectives. Inputs, transformations, and outputs are applied to group work.


This qualitative study was designed to develop a theoretical understanding of students' perceptions of leadership and leadership behaviors. …

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