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C E C I L I A M C I N N I S - B OW E R S A N D E .

B Y R O N C H E W

The True Teamwork


AS CRUCIAL STAKEHOLDERS in higher educa-
tion, employers have long requested, de-
manded, and implored that colleges and
universities help students develop the team
skills needed to address challenges posed by
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innovation. Employers seek college graduates


who, in the face of persistent ambiguity and
within increasingly complex environments,
are able to collaborate with people with a
F E A T U R E D

broad diversity of backgrounds, cultural ori-


gins, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. In re-
sponse, colleges and universities nationwide
have offered public assurances that, upon
graduation, students possess those skills.
Why then do graduates still lack real team
skills? Haven’t they
been provided with
opportunities to deepen their self-knowledge,
It is imperative to appreciation for diversity, and knowledge of
different cultures? Haven’t they been given
find better ways of opportunities to work together in classes?
helping students What’s the problem?
successfully master Traditional curricula provide learning expe-
what are not only riences that place the responsibility on stu-
dents to capture the salient points, catalog
the constituent those points, retrieve and apply them at an
elements of team- appropriate moment; students learn, synthe-
work but, arguably, size, and apply. A student may, for example,
also representative take an introductory course that focuses on
gaining self-knowledge and, near the end of
outcomes of a his or her studies, another course on or in-
liberal education volving collaborative methods, consensus
building, group dynamics, small-group
processes, or teamwork. These topics may be
explored either theoretically or through a
practical project and either with or without
intentional processing to extract and rein-
force the learning that takes place. The stu-
dent may also have undertaken leadership
roles in the cocurriculum. But the key ques-
tion raised by this traditional approach is

CECILIA MCINNIS-BOWERS is professor of interna-


tional business at Rollins College, and E. BYRON Annual Meeting
CHEW is Monaghan Professor of Management at
Birmingham-Southern College.

24 LIBERAL EDUCATION SUMMER 2008


Model Blending the Liberal Arts and
International Business Education
knowledge, and understanding of others who
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are different from oneself; and the ability to en-


Student Benefits from
the True Teamwork Model gage in meaningful and effective collaboration
to solve complex problems. Can these out-
comes be “blended” together and presented as
F E A T U R E D

Gain Meaningful Self-knowledge facets of a cohesive whole—and if so, how?


• Explore dimensions of their personality In some cases, the architecture of academic
through an affirming process using the programs has been specifically designed either
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and to bridge professional studies and the liberal
Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (EI) arts or to enable students to make connections
model across learning experiences and academic do-
• Value diversity by exploring cultural her-
mains. These purposes are often accomplished
itage and thereby establishing a platform
through a discipline distribution approach to
to genuinely value and better understand
the nuances and complexities of different course planning that mandates a percentage of
cultures courses be taken outside of the major. But how
• Explore behaviors and attitudes that fre- much more powerful would it be if students saw
quently are associated with friction and and participated with faculty in blending pur-
misunderstandings between people from poses from across domains? By drawing from
different cultures via Hofstede’s Cultural concepts typically present in introductory-level
Dimensions courses, faculty can model for students the
process of making connections between seem-
Gain Understanding of Others ingly disparate domains of knowledge. In other
• Share, with respect for personal comfort
words, content can be blended to enhance
zones, within a discussion group, insights
student learning. Most faculty members view
from the MBTI and the Emotional
Intelligence model themselves as specialists and are likely to resist
• Share insights about cultural heritages and teaching outside their particular domains.
the cultural dimensions Yet we expect our students to make connections
across their learning to apply concepts from
Learn Meaningful Collaboration several different domains to solve problems.
• Learn the expected stages of team develop- We claim, indeed we hope, that liberally edu-
ment and progression via Tuckman’s model cated graduates do this intentionally. In order
• Practice meaningful collaboration via to help students learn to make connections,
teamwork by combining individual compe- we, as faculty, need to step a bit outside of our
tencies to tackle complex, new tasks
comfort zones of specialization and demon-
strate the power of an interdisciplinary or multi-
dimensional approach to problem solving.
Decision making, for example, involves the
whether the responsibility for making connec- use of oral and written communication skills
tions should rest predominately, let alone ex- to receive information and disseminate deci-
clusively, with students. sions to those affected; recognition of patterns
It is not uncommon for the elements of from past experience to determine the appro-
teamwork to be developed separately across the priate methodology to apply in a given situation;
student’s curricular and cocurricular experi- utilization of cost-benefit analysis to value al-
ences. Courses involving one or more of these ternative courses of action; and drawing upon
elements are taught by different instructors behavioral knowledge to gain “buy in” for the
from different disciplines and domains. This decision. Blending these into one cohesive
segmentation in time, teachers, disciplines, and learning experience enables students to com-
domains jeopardizes the cohesion of learning. bine skills and abilities developed through
It is, therefore, imperative to find better ways of coursework in the humanities, fine arts, natural
helping students successfully master what are sciences, and social sciences as well as through
not only the constituent elements of teamwork professional studies. Faculty can orchestrate
but, arguably, also representative outcomes of blended learning opportunities via materials
a liberal education: deeper, richer understand- selected from an array of academic domains,
ing of oneself as an individual; perception, assignments, and class discussions. Wouldn’t

26 LIBERAL EDUCATION SUMMER 2008


such faculty modeling and student blending be the three elements, and it is transferable

T O P I C
a more effective educational approach than across programs of study.
expecting students on their own to recall, select, Students expect the college experience to
and properly utilize the necessary elements of provide them with opportunities to find out
their liberal education—elements that were more about who they are—their authentic

F E A T U R E D
introduced by different instructors, from dif- identity, what they value, what they want to
ferent academic domains, and at different do with their lives. They seek self-knowledge.
moments in time? Using the True Teamwork Model, students
explore such questions as: Why do I tend to
The True Teamwork Model procrastinate? Why can’t I study in the café
By blending concepts from psychology, anthro- with my friends and learn the material like
pology, management, and philosophy, we they do? Why do I always need media playing
have developed the True Teamwork Model. when I study? Why can’t I speak up in class?
The model represents a cohesive teaching Why do I tend to do what my friends want,
and learning strategy designed to enable stu- when I do not really want to? Why do I always
dents to develop teamwork skills through a jump to conclusions? The self-questioning
three-pronged approach: knowing self, un- model helps students learn how personal traits
derstanding others, and collaborating to constitute an identity as well as how they can
solve complex problems (see sidebar). The create blind spots that impede decision making.
self-guided format of the model ensures that Further, through the use of the Myers-Briggs
its use by students does not compete with Type Indicator (MBTI), students gain an under-
time for in-class content delivery by faculty. standing of the range of human personality
The True Teamwork Model can readily be types and extend their discussion of diversity
replicated or adapted to emphasize any of beyond race, religion, and ethnicity (Hirsch
Birmingham-Southern
College

SUMMER 2008 LIBERAL EDUCATION 27


small-group discussions, students learn about
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other cultures as they share what they learned


about themselves and their own cultures. At
first, one of our students responded flippantly
to this assignment. “I’m just an American,” she
F E A T U R E D

said. Yet in exploring her own cultural heritage,


she came to see herself as Polish-American.
She discovered that she had relatives who died
at Auschwitz; her parents had never discussed
As part of the Liberal Education and this with her. Through the assignment, she
America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, an deepened and enriched her sense of her own
initial series of eleven videos was created to identity. She learned about what it means to be
shine a spotlight on effective educational Jewish, Polish, and American—and so too did
programs and practices developed by the other students in her discussion group.
LEAP partner campuses. During the 2008 Enriching the understanding of others is a
annual meeting, these campus videos, natural extension of the students’ personal ex-
along with interviews and presentations ploration. Indeed a key advantage of the True
from the ongoing meeting itself, were Teamwork model is that, even as it enables
broadcast on television screens throughout students to deepen their own self-knowledge,
the conference site and in hotel rooms as it also provides opportunities for students to
well as online. Excerpts from the annual learn about others. Through group discussion,
meeting broadcasts and the full content of students share among themselves what they
the eleven campus videos are now available learn about their own personalities and cultural
online as video podcasts. heritage. The knowledge gained by listening
to peers share their “stories” tends to move the
www.aacu.org/aacutv concept of gaining insights into others from
the “nice-to-know” category to the “need-to-
know,” especially when the students will later
collaborate on a project.
To further emphasize cultural diversity, the
True Teamwork Model draws from anthropol-
ogy to incorporate Hofstede’s (1981) Cultural
Dimensions framework, which enables students
to gain insights into the key behavioral or atti-
tudinal dimensions that are associated with fric-
tion and misunderstanding between people
from different cultures. These insights comple-
ment those gained from the MBTI. Students
discover the similarities between the personal-
and Kummerow 1998). Similarly, Goleman’s ity conflicts that may arise in personal and pro-
(1995) Emotional Intelligence model can be fessional relationships, on the one hand, and
used to explore emotional or social forms of the conflicts caused by differences in the ex-
intelligence. A person might be a brilliant pression of cultural dimensions, on the other.
theoretical thinker, for example, and yet, When we face challenging or complex situ-
without the social awareness required to an- ations, we often do so with clear expectations.
ticipate the needs of a particular audience, he The incoming student is given an overview of
or she may be unable to communicate effec- the academic program across the four years
tively. By adding such an exploration to stu- of college; the expectant mother is given an
dent research projects, or by incorporating it overview of the stages of gestation; the patient
into group discussions, faculty can help stu- is given an overview of the stages of recovery.
dents learn to value people in new ways. Typically, however, students charged with
The self-guided process also includes an ex- “teamwork” are not given an overview of the
ploration of cultural heritage, an area that can collaborative process. To counteract that the
be eye-opening for students. In out-of-class True Teamwork Model draws from educational

28 LIBERAL EDUCATION SUMMER 2008


The True Teamwork
psychology to incorporate Model teaches to rethink trains their cogni-

T O P I C
Tuckman’s model of team de- teamwork, tive skills in reflective think-
velopment, which helps stu- ing and bringing those skills
dents understand teamwork as not group work to bear at decisive moments.
a process that requires atten- When read and responded to,

F E A T U R E D
tion and intentionality. Tuckman (1992) pre- journals can increase student accountability
sents stages of team development that involve to the team process. So too can peer and self
becoming familiar with one another, estab- evaluations.
lishing a common understanding of accept-
able and unacceptable behaviors, “fighting” Conclusion
through inevitable tensions and conflicts, and We undertook to teach teamwork in response
streamlining efficiencies as meaningful and to the needs of employers, but we learned how
mindful collaborations become the norm. The to teach it effectively in response to the learning
learning achieved through the MBTI, the needs of our students. Teamwork is not a single
Emotional Intelligence model, and the Cul- construct. Rather, it is a three-layered learning
tural Dimensions framework can usefully be outcome: knowing self, understanding others,
applied through Tuckman’s model. and collaborating to solve complex problems.
Students cannot successfully develop the skills
Applying the model and abilities required for true teamwork when
A “lab” environment is needed to enable stu- the three components are treated in isolation
dents to process and apply these concepts. In- across the curriculum and cocurriculum.
dividual faculty members must determine how The True Teamwork Model teaches team-
best to assess students’ self-knowledge, abili- work, not group work, and it can be utilized in
ties to make insights into others, and progress the liberal arts as well as in professional studies.
from an assembly of individuals to a true team. It gives faculty the opportunity to demonstrate,
The faculty member creates the “lab” experi- or model, how to make connections across the
ence by designing the project or series of tasks curriculum. The model’s “blended” approach
associated with the specific content of his or her can be used in any course intended to help
course. In an international marketing class, students gain self-knowledge, understand
for example, the “lab” experience might in- others, and collaborate. In addition to teach-
volve the identification of a need present in ing team skills, the True Teamwork Model
an emerging economy, the creation of a new also provides students with an example of how
product to meet the need, and the development to connect and blend the knowledge gained
of a marketing plan. This complex and multi- from their liberal education. ■
faceted task would require knowledge about de-
veloping countries and emerging economies as To respond to this article, e-mail liberaled@aacu.org,
well as about political, economic, sociocultural, with the authors’ names on the subject line.
technological, legal-regulatory, and competitive
environments. Successful completion of the REFERENCES
task would of necessity require teamwork. Goleman, D. 1995. Emotional intelligence. New York:
As determined by the faculty member, and Bantam Books.
Hofstede, G. H. 2001. Culture’s consequences: Com-
depending upon the goals of the course, stu- paring values, behaviors, institutions, and organiza-
dents’ abilities in analyzing and improving tions across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
their team skills, interpersonal dynamics, pro- Hirsch, S. K., and J. Kummerow. 1998. Introduction to
ject management, and decision making can be type in organizations: individual interpretive guide.
enhanced by requiring reflective thinking. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Schon, D. 1983. Reflective practitioner: How profession-
Donald Schon (1983), a philosopher by train- als think in action. New York: Basic Books.
ing, adapted the concept of reflective thinking Tuckman, B. W. 1965. Developmental sequence in
into a pragmatic skill. Through what Schon small groups. Psychological Bulletin 63: 384–99.
calls “reflection-in-action,” business profes- Tuckman, B. W. 1992. Educational psychology: From
sionals can enhance their decision-making theory to application. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich.
skills as situations actually occur. Reflective
journals or blogs give students an opportunity
to “reflect-do-rethink-do again.” Distancing

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