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Integrating Team Exercises With Other Course work

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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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.