Current discussions in higher education and alumni training acknowledge the challenges training programs face in responding to the authentic needs of the labor market. In addition to academic knowledge, higher education institutions are expected to provide general 21st-century skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and interpersonal skills. To meet these challenges, many institutions utilize collaborative pedagogies such as learning in teams. However, teamwork in higher education tends to focus primarily on the task aspects of performance at the expense of the team aspects, and for educators, there may be no feasible way to assess whether the students are learning to work successfully as teams. This paper explores how new student teams (n = 3) that simulate real business teams by taking a challenging entrepreneur assessment, developed over three semesters for general skills (i.e., communication), and whether the improvement in their communication also indicated the teams' improved performance (i.e., financial success). As an analytical tool, the study relies on initial parameters on teams' microdynamics of communication (Losada, 1999) normalized with fuzzy logic. In accordance with the current understanding of team development, the results did not show any linear improvement, but the quality of communication in the teams improved episodically. Further, the results provide evidence of the possible relationship between the improved quality of communication and the teams' collective financial success. However, in future work, due to the lack of sensitivity of the parameters in this context together with the recent criticisms of the mathematical basis of the patterns of team dynamics based on Losada's parameters, they will be reexamined with a Monte Carlo sensitivity analysis.
Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is widely recognized as a prominent 21st-century skill to be mastered. Until recently, research on CPS has often focused on problem solution by the individual; the interest in investigating how the theorized problem-solving constructs function as broader social units, such as pairs or small groups, is relatively recent. Capturing the complexity of CPS processes in group-level interaction is challenging. Therefore, a method of analysis capturing various layers of CPS was developed that aimed for a deeper understanding of CPS as a small-group enactment. In the study, small groups of teacher education students worked on two variations of open-ended CPS tasks—a technology-enhanced task and a task using physical objects. The method, relying on video data, encompassed triangulation of analysis methods and combined the following: (a) directed content analysis of the actualized CPS in groups, (b) process analysis and visualizations, and (c) qualitative cases. Content analysis did not show a large variation in how CPS was actualized in the groups or tasks for either case, whereas process analysis revealed both group- and task-related differences in accordance with the interchange of CPS elements. The qualitative cases exemplified the interaction diversity in the quality of coordination and students’ equal participation in groups. It was concluded that combining different methods gives access to various layers of CPS; moreover, it can contribute to a deeper articulation of the CPS as a group-level construct, providing divergent ways to understand CPS in this context.
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