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Learning in Teams

This thesis is the product of a final project of a Master of Arts degree produced in the year 1999/2000 and is integrating the subjects Communication and Adult Education at Roskilde University.

The title of the thesis ‘Learning in Teams’ applies to the learning that goes on within the community of instructors working together on a specific course. The thesis evolves around the problem formulation: initiated by a specific example of team teaching it is analysed which factors that improve and restrict the instructors’ learning in teams.

Taking this outset, I observe, describe and analyse a specific team of instructors at a specific course, inspired by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. This is done by focusing on the participation of the team in the field, including the relations of which the team and the course are a part. The analysis draws an image of the instructors’ actions in the educational room and gives an indication of which factors can improve and restrict the instructors’ learning in teams. Apart from Bourdieu, Etienne Wenger’s theory on communities of practice and Henriette Christrup’s view of power relations are included.

The analysis is the result of participation in the specific course including observation of and questioning about the praxis of the team. Further, my own reflections play an active part with respect to the description of the empirical data. The dialogues with the team have been recorded on video in order to allow subsequent analysis of the body language. The subject of the course is negotiation and the learners are representatives from a trade union within the health and social sector. The managers and instructors of the course are the instructors Lene and Jette.

It is concluded that both the subject matter of the course, the personal relations within the team and the instructors’ positions within the overall power field of the organisation has an impact on the team learning. The subject matter of the course is influenced by the focus of the team on the weaker learners, which is seen through the parallel existence of a culture of care and a culture of struggle. The learning depends on the team’s ability to reflect and talk about this in order to learn to deal with and make use of this complexity. The subject matter is also influenced by the team’s effort to create a link between the course and the everyday work situation of the learners through specific exercises of negotiation and through the participant’s influence on the course. The learning depends on the team’s ability to give room for the participant’s personal involvement, development and influence within the course.

The personal relation within the team and the instructors’ positions within the overall power field of the organisation is affected by power relations. The power relations are seen when each of the instructors is struggling to define the reality within the team in order to gain a superior position within the field. This power relation is conflict filled which makes knowledge sharing and learning quite difficult. The learning depends on the instructors’ ability to cope with conflicts and share their knowledge with the rest of the agents in the field.

In the perspective part, a proposal as to how to create development as a consultant is brought forth. It is pointed out that as a consultant it is important to have access to the complex affairs which are part of the life of the instructor and that the consultant must acquire competence to act on this. The last part of the thesis is a review of the used method.

Copenhagen, July 2000
Torben Heikel Vinther

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� 2000 Torben Heikel Vinther. Alle rettigheder forbeholdes.