Unity through Diversity: Enhancing Students' Development of Teamwork Skills
The existence of culturally diverse work teams consisting of individuals with distinct attitudes, behaviours, expectations and demands is characteristic of this global economy and society. Moreover, as today’s organizations continue to advocate and rely on the use of work teams to increase its competitive edge, performance and profitability, tertiary students are conscious of the fact that the attainment of a multifarious skill-set, including effective teamwork skills is critical to enhancing their employability. But what does it really mean to be a team-player in this diverse and global work environment? How does cultural diversity of our university student populations impact small group work? Are graduates really ill-equipped with the skills needed for ‘real-world’ team experiences, as suggested by some critics? The study explores the conceptualization of teamwork in university and professional work-based contexts from the perspectives of graduating business students in an Australian university and Australian business employers. The aim of study is to improve how teamwork skills are conceptualized so that greater alignment between academia and employers’ perspectives may exist in developing diversified graduates who are ‘work-and-global ready’. A qualitative-quantitative methodology captured research participants’ experiences. The paper presents findings which indicated that students’ perceived their skills-set had developed throughout their programme of study; however, difficulty in articulating the skills that comprised this skill-set was evident. The conclusion is made that students have to engage in reflective practices to recognize and communicate the implementation potential of their skill-set in the workplace. Additionally, if we as educators are encouraging students to take more responsibility for their own learning and are structuring student work teams within culturally diverse student populations, then we need to consider how we operate as members of teaching staff to support students who are working in this way.
Keywords: Teamwork, Skills Development, Graduates, Adult Learning, Diversity, Multicultural, Workforce Development
Research Associate, Curtin Business School, Curtin University of Technology