Learning to become a team: A case study of action research in a graduate business management course
The purpose of this study was to conduct an exploratory investigation of how adult individuals interacting in a graduate business management course developed an awareness of themselves and the team process while participating in an experiential action research study. Adult participants who were managers and potential managers enrolled primarily in an MBA program interacted and applied an educational model to team units. The site was a Long Island private university graduate business classroom. But students also interacted through e-mail messaging and off-site locations. A pilot class (n = 19) composed of four teams was conducted the previous semester and results from the pilot are included. The study participants (n = 14) were arranged in three teams; comparison was made to the pilot.
Team problems developed in the pilot so the instructor/action researcher engaged reflective exercises in the study (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993). The application of a learning instrument, the Learning Combination Inventory (LCI), and a reflective learning process (LMLP) was emphasized (Johnston, 1996, 1998). Qualitative methodology (Miles & Huberman, 1994), case study design (Yin, 1994), and an action research model (Mills, 2000) were utilized. Methods were triangulated and included participant observation, field notes, individual/team update, evaluative questionnaires, reflective assignments/exercises, photographs, and interviews.
Individual/team tensions seemed evident. In the pilot and study, the team product took precedence over the reflective learning process. Teams were supported and hindered by external/internal factors including: evolving technology, entertainment media, motivational needs, individualism, team accommodation, emotionalism, competition, and a tendency to break team contracts. Results illustrated that an individual's acculturation, strength of commitment, and strength of identification to the team entity affects an individual's team acculturation. In the study, two individuals reported a change/shift toward a team orientation while the majority reported a widening of their knowledge base and acculturation in regard to team units. The action researcher also reported a change in her approach to the learning process. This study may aid higher education faculty/facilitators in constructing a learning model that facilitates the formation of teams so that adult participants may have the meaningful context they need to develop their team skills, knowledge, and experiences.
0745: Higher education
0516: Adult education
0516: Continuing education