Group Dynamics and Leadership

Topics: Team, Project management, The A-Team Pages: 15 (3631 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Successful teamwork: A case study

Pina Tarricone
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
Joe Luca
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

Abstract: Why are some teams successful and others unsuccessful? What criteria or attributes are needed for success? Contemporary teaching and learning practice over the past few years in higher education institutions has seen a proliferation of open-ended constructivist learning designs that incorporate collaboration. This has promoted the need for identifying essential attributes needed for successful teamwork. This study reviews the literature with a view of identifying a framework that educators can use to help promote effective teamwork in their classes. A case study is used to investigate two teams of final year multimedia students completing a project-based unit, in which teamwork was an essential ingredient and immersed in an authentic context. Attributes gleaned from the literature for successful teamwork was used to compare the two diverse teams. Keywords: Teamwork, higher education, authentic environment

With the shift from a predominately instructivist to constructivist pedagogy the need for tertiary educators to use a variety of teaching strategies and methods is becoming increasingly important. Learning designs need to incorporate student-centred team based learning pedagogy such as project-based, case-based, inquiry-based and problem-based scenarios (Oliver, 2001). Students need to be immersed in learning environments that promote real learning in real contexts. Teams and teamwork help to promote deep learning that occurs through interaction, problem solving, dialogue, cooperation and collaboration (Johnson & Johnson, 1995). These learning designs promote the construction of knowledge as they are embedded in a social experience with a team environment (Vygotsky, 1978). Effective teamwork can affect the successful delivery and implementation of these learning designs. Tertiary educators cannot assume students will the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to create and contribute to a synergistic team environment.

Through a review of the literature, this paper identifies a range of attributes considered necessary for successful teamwork. These are then used to compare two contrasting teams with a view of confirming their validity through a case study.

HERDSA 2002 9@ PAGE 640

Attributes of Effective Teamwork
Teamwork is defined by Scarnati (2001, p. 5) “as a cooperative process that allows ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results”. Harris & Harris (1996) also explain that a team has a common goal or purpose where team members can develop effective, mutual relationships to achieve team goals. Teamwork replies upon individuals working together in a cooperative environment to achieve common team goals through sharing knowledge and skills. The literature consistently highlights that one of the essential elements of a team is its focus toward a common goal and a clear purpose (Fisher, Hunter, & Macrosson, 1997; Johnson & Johnson, 1995, 1999; Parker, 1990; Harris & Harris, 1996). Teams are an integral part of many organizations and should be incorporated as part of the delivery of tertiary units. Successful teamwork relies upon synergism existing between all team members creating an environment where they are all willing to contribute and participate in order to promote and nurture a positive, effective team environment. Team members must be flexible enough to adapt to cooperative working environments where goals are achieved through collaboration and social interdependence rather than individualised, competitive goals (Luca & Tarricone, 2001).

Research has provided a number of attributes required for successful teamwork. Many of these attributes have been consistently identified in the literature. Table 1 provides a summary of literature on the successful...
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