Cooperative learning amongst MBA students in South Africa
This study analysed the experiences of MBA students who were members of syndicate groups whilst engaged in the MBA programme at Wits Business School (WBS). Questions regarding the effectiveness of syndicate groups were raised when a number of study groups were spontaneously formed by students, even though WBS advised that the syndicate groups created by the school were created as the ideal vehicle for learning, where interaction and debate could flourish. A qualitative study followed whereby a sample of students from the MBA programme at WBS was interviewed to gain insight into their experiences of syndicate and study groups. The key components of the interview included individual expectations of syndicate groups, actual experiences whilst a member of the syndicate group, individual learning styles, perception of team dynamics, roles within the group and team dynamics such as decision-making, conflict, and diversity. Reasons for the establishment of study groups was also investigated. Initial findings indicated that personality and other team-related dynamics were at the root of the ineffectiveness within syndicate groups. It later transpired that one of the primary reasons explaining the ineffectiveness of syndicate groups, and the formation of study groups was the realisation that not all members of the syndicate group shared the same goal of the programme. This impacted team relationships and learning potential. Study groups on the other hand, created environments for its members that were devoid of personality clashes, political posturing, individual egos and other dynamics which inhibited team development. In many respects, study groups were largely representative of cooperative learning groups, both in terms of function and outcome, and represents a key learning opportunity for the business school in terms of its operationalisation of syndicate groups. iii Further analysis revealed the existence of a number of faulty assumptions regarding the value of syndicate groups, on the part of both the school and students. On the part of the school, faulty assumptions tended to relate to specific student-related processes. Faulty assumptions on the part of students originate where clear communication and guidance is lacking, and at times through a lack of initiative to seek clarity. Key recommendations to the school include that it must firstly agree if syndicate groups are intended to operate as cooperative learning groups, and if they are, to establish the environment needed for such groups to flourish. Syndicate evaluation processes, as well as lecturer involvement with syndicate groups must be enhanced to facilitate learning within these groups. Recommendations to students are also provided, the most relevant of these being the need to be more proactive in seeking clarification from the School, and learning to deal with group dynamics, particularly, dealing with conflict.
Cooperative learning, Syndicate groups, MBA students