Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#265 Integrating Team Exercises With Other Course work


The excerpt below looks at some innovative ways of introducing team
exercise and other forms of cooperative learning into traditional
lecture classrooms. It is from: Using Student Teams in the
Classroom: A Faculty Guide by Ruth Federman Stein and Sandra Hurd,
Syracuse University. ISBN 1-882982-37-1
Copyright ? 2000, by Anker Publishing Company, Inc. All rights
reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
UP NEXT: The Grade Point Average (GPA): An Exercise In Academic Absurdity

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

-------------------- 950 words ------------------


Ruth Federman Stein
Sandra Hurd
pp. 13-16

For the most part, college-level instruction is not now organized
around the principles of cooperative learning. Assignments,
textbooks, the examination system, and even the physical arrangements
of many large classrooms reflect a more individualistic conception of
learning. Under these conditions, how are principles of cooperative
learning to be introduced without the appearance of inconsistency?

Instructors who initiate team projects often point out that team
activities increase learning. They note that teamwork is widespread
in industry and other organizations. Justification along these
lines, however, may fail to motivate students because they say little
about how teams actually achieve the benefits that are claimed on
their behalf, and how a team project complements the content and
organization of the specific course in which it is being introduced.
This section suggests some ways to supplement the conventional
justification for them.

The suggestions are arranged under two headings: rationales for the
use of teams in a course or discipline, and the integration of team
exercises with other course content. You will note, however, that
these categories may overlap in practice.


The following rationales address team exercises as a form of
cooperative learning and are thus potentially applicable to a wide
range of activities

Constructivist rationale. Most psychological theory portrays learning
as a process of construction (Fosnot, 1996). Students can
make sense of
a concept only if they build it into the structure of their own prior
experience. It is very difficult to create such a structure
by oneself,
especially in an unfamiliar subject area. Discussion in
small groups of
peers makes this undertaking much easier.

Linguistic perspective on learning. Scholars of professional language
and rhetoric, such as Charles Bazerman (1998, 1991) and James
Boyd White
(1995), note that when students encounter a discipline or a
filed, they are being exposed to a specialized language. In learning
concepts and terms, they are learning to engage in a particular form of
discussion. Their grasp of a topic is usually evaluated on
the basis of
their ability to understand questions about it and to write cogent
answers. Students are much more likely to develop this linguistic
proficiency if they have both informal and formal opportunities to
speak, rather than being restricted to listening and reading.

Tacit dimension of professional and disciplinary knowledge. As Donald
Schon has pointed out (19983, 1987), there are many forms of learning
that cannot be characterized in terms of propositional knowledge, and
thus are not reducible to statements in a textbook or lecture.
Practical skills, intuitive judgement, and social context cannot
generally be taught by exposition. Some sort of collaborative activity
is required. Thus, for example, in a team exercise in a marketing
course, students would get a chance to act out the role of a marketing
specialist and discover some of the practical exigencies and
of the practice of marketing. This background understanding of the
social context of marketing would provide a framework within which
students may subsequently organize more detailed information of pricing
strategy, promotional techniques, and problems of distribution.

Habits and attitudes needed for academic achievements. As Kenneth
Bruffee (1999) has pointed out, higher education can be thought of as a
form of acculturation. According to this model, becoming
successful as a
student is a cultural acquisition. Academic competence is not just
mastering course content: It also involves the formation of attitudes
about schoolwork and the acquisition of habits of regular class
attendance, consistent and thorough preparation, and disciplined
management of time. Interaction with peers in a classroom can help
students learn habits and attitudes needed for academic success more
easily. This interaction can be especially helpful for students who
come to the United States from other cultures.

Strategies for Integrating Team Exercises

Team exercises provide instructors with feedback mechanisms of
unparalleled sensitivity. If teams had no other benefits, they would
be justifiable solely on the grounds that they provide detailed
information about the success of instruction and bring to light areas
of misunderstanding. The following strategies are designed both to
take advantage of that feedback and to emphasize its importance to

Anticipatory strategies. Formal instruction can be designed to
anticipate team exercises. For example, a lecture might introduce a
problem or a question and review some of the information that could be
brought to bear on it. The question or problem could then be posed to
teams, who would review their notes and come up with an answer or
solution. Alternatively, a lecture could introduce a series of related
concepts, and specialized terms and teams convened to explain them and
provide illustrations.

Involvement and attention. It is essential that the instructor not be
aloof from team exercises. Circulating among the groups, listening,
asking questions, and evaluating students' understanding both of
concepts and tasks will all help to provide a clearer sense of the
students' progress and will also steer them back to the task at hand if
they should be inclined to stray from it. The instructor's active
attention will emphasize to the students the importance of the team
exercise and its connection to other parts of the course.

Short-term adaptation. Information gleaned from the teams can be
incorporated into formal lessons. At the start of the next lecture,
briefly summarize progress observed in teams, correct specific
misconceptions, or highlight unresolved questions that have been raised
in the teams.

Longer-term follow-up activities. Subsequent lectures,
discussions, and
assignments can be designed to build on the team activities. Teams can
report their conclusions in general discussion, a question related to
the team activities. Teams can report their conclusions in general
discussion, a question related to the team activity could be
included on
the exam, readings related to questions raised by the teams could be assigned.