South African Journal of Higher Education

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Team trails, trials and tribulations – rigorously reckoning with

V Pieterse, CSM du Toit


A major challenge to the efficacy of student team learning projects occurs when some members of a group are unable to contribute effectively to the collaborative endeavour due to their academic deficits. A graded benchmark for the requisite academic maturity is the setting of admission requirements. Various research studies have shown a positive correlation between student achievement outcomes and prior learning activities. Very few viable solutions, however, have been offered to address the problem of deficient prior learning skills. This empiric study describes an intervention that was designed to furnish at-risk students with the requisite baseline skills to collaborate more effectively with team members who have already attained a higher skills level. The intervention is two-pronged: it involves a close scrutiny of the students' performance in those modules that they are repeating, as well as negotiation between lecturer and students about standards and support in the current module. The structured negotiations resulted in a mutually binding agreement. This article reports on the problems encountered when students lack adequate knowledge and skills upon entering a module. We investigated reasons for this phenomenon in this particular case and describe the process of the design and implementation of our intervention. The findings highlight its overall impact as well as how students experienced the intervention.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 22 (3) 2008: pp. 629-643
AJOL African Journals Online