Becoming a High-Performance Study Team: Required Group Dynamics and Motivational Strategies

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The aim of this article is to explore what are the group-related dynamics and motivational strategies for becoming a high-performing engineering student team in a university environment using/applying a PBL model. It reflects an interest in engineering students' motivation to learn in groups.
A very recent and comprehensive literature study on students’ motivation in a PBL study environment demonstrates that motivation as such is a poorly researched area. This documented lack of research into motivation to learn in groups is interesting, not least considering the quality of learning and retention issues at educational institutions, but also the complexity of societal and environmental challenges facing the world. These issues all call for employable engineers who possess transversal skills, such as collaborative skills and competencies for working in high-performing teams, but also the ability to form new partnerships as, for example, required in the UN SDGs.
The theoretical framework is constructed by contemporary motivational theories. One, about relational dynamics, identifies three different types of interactions in groups; liquidating, maintaining or evolving ways of interaction, while another theory focuses on identifying strategies that appear to be supportive or inhibitory of motivation in collaborative learning. To complete the framework, these motivational theories are combined with theories on high-performing teams. Empirically, the study is based on recorded real-time actions of three selected first-year engineering student teams’ collaboration and interaction, which is analysed by applying the theoretical framework to the dataset.
Theoretically, the article concludes that high-performing study teams are characterised by an ability to stay curious and draw learning and nourishment from internal differences, while still keeping an explicit learning focus. Being able to acknowledge and work with unresolved differences is an ability that puts the team on a constant evolving learning curve. Reflecting upon and being able to master 6 specific motivational strategies creates the most supportive and developing framework to do so. It takes time and effort to become a high-performing team, and therefore, from an empirical point of view, we conclude that our three engineering student teams are on their way to become high-performance teams, displaying qualitatively different versions of what an efficient study team looks like.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Publication statusSubmitted - 15 Jan 2020

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