C. García Palao1, P. Coughlan2, M.J. Oltra Mestre1, M. Flor Peris1

1Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
2Trinity College Dublin (IRELAND)
Collaborative learning increases learning effectiveness by means of the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes as a result of team interaction. The basic premise is to build consensus, discussion and agreement through cooperation among group members. In a collaborative learning process, there are components for the group to learn together and, so, the group decides how to organize tasks and how to divide the work. Communication and negotiation are key in this organization and division. The main objective of this study is to explore the design parameters and results obtained from an operations management course aimed at developing students’ team working and planning competences. The course is based on collaborative learning processes and action research.

The study has been developed with the students of the course on Operations Management. Operations Management is a compulsory subject taught in the 3rd year of the Degree in Business Administration. The number of students enrolled in this course is around 100 and most of them have no previous work experience. The course is structured in two modules, theoretical and practical, which are developed simultaneously. In the theoretical module, teachers lecture on the most relevant theoretical concepts related to fundamentals of operations management. In the practical module, students work in teams and engage in different activities collaboratively.

Tools used in student team working are a team agenda, notice for teamwork meetings, minutes of the teamwork meetings, definition of team roles, formalization of dynamics for collaborative teamwork and action research cycles in each activity developed. Action research may be defined as an emergent inquiry process in which applied behavioural science knowledge is integrated with existing organizational knowledge and applied to solve real organizational problems. It is simultaneously concerned with bringing about change in organizations, and developing self-help competencies in organizational members and adding to scientific knowledge. Finally, it is an evolving process that is undertaken in a spirit of collaboration and co-inquiry (Shani and Pasmore, 1985: 439).

Now, after the first year of implementation of this approach, this paper describes the programme and evaluates the achievements of the course. A survey of students was carried out at the end of the semester confirming their appreciation of the positive learning experience. Teamwork competence improvement was assessed by students with a score of 4.55 on a 5-point scale, students’ satisfaction with the course (4.41) and appraisal of its usefulness (4.86) were also high. In a complementary way, teachers considered that fundamental resources for collaborative learning and teamwork competence development have been identified and the objectives achieved.

The main contribution of this paper is to guide the design and implemention of a set of practical activities which may be of interest to teachers involved in the design and delivery of operations management courses. The insights facilitate the development of teamwork and planning competences which may also be interesting to operations management practitioners who need to develop teamwork competence in a practitioner environment.

Research carried out with financial support from Universitat Jaume I through project 3114/15.