Power and Positionality: What Makes a Successful Team

Wagner, Caroline, Higher Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Leffers, Robert, ED-EDLF, University of Virginia

This study explores the critical intersection of teamwork, business education, and group dynamics, with a focus on graduate business programs. Emphasizing the universal nature of teamwork and its prevalence in various life contexts, the study recognizes both the benefits and challenges associated with team collaboration. The literature review delves into the significance of leadership styles, Tuckman's group development model, and the impact of individual students' power and positionality on group dynamics. The study also addresses the role of community in business higher education, highlighting the competitive landscape, program preferences, and the importance of belonging and connectedness for student success. Furthermore, the study examines various forms of capital, such as social and cultural capital, and their influence on group interactions. The role of gender in group dynamics is also examined, offering insights into how gender dynamics influence collaborative efforts. The study is centered around Tuckman's Theory of Group Development, highlighting the stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing.
The study, conducted at Oak University, a Predominantly White Institution in the mid-Atlantic region, specifically focuses on a one-year Master's degree in commerce program. Using Tuckman's Model of Group Development as a framework, the research questions guiding the research are:
1. How do students rate their sense of belonging in groups?
2. To what extent do group dynamics change over time?
3. To what extent does gender play a role in group dynamics?
4. What is the relationship between an individual’s social capital and job confidence?
5. What is the relationship between social capital and group dynamics?
This data was analyzed using a comprehensive mixed methods approach, and five surveys conducted throughout the semester. The analysis reveals significant increases in students' sense of connection and mutual respect over time. While individual feelings of importance and equality within groups remained stable, group dynamics related to conversation dominance underwent changes. Gender differences were minimal, with only slight variations in perceptions of mutual respect and conversation dominance. The study also explores the relationship between social capital and job confidence, emphasizing the positive correlation between academic success, group collaboration, and confidence in obtaining a job. The recommendations from this study are:
1. Maintaining intentional group structures
2. Implementing pre-entrance personality assessments
3. Utilizing team contracts
4. Mandatory interventions
5. Intra-group dynamic research
Limitations and considerations for future research are also discussed, emphasizing the importance of group experiences in fostering critical thinking and positive outcomes.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
teamwork, business school, graduate students, power, group projects, capital
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