Brent Duncan, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development
Despite a culture with cooperation as a core value, (Nagao, Takashi, & Okuda, 2011) Japanese higher education generally uses rigid lecture–test teaching models that neither support nor condone small-group learning methods in the classroom. As a result, Japanese college students usually work outside the classroom to develop the collaborative skills necessary to contribute effectively at work and in society (Tsuneyoshi, 2001; McVeigh, 2002). To assess the viability of team-learning methods foreign to Japanese higher education, a mixed methods action study project was conducted with remedial students in a Japanese college.
Called Team Hachi Project, the research found support for the assumption that Japanese college students could increase academic learning and performance through interdependent learning methods. In addition, Team Hachi Project found the following: (a) Group gains can be at the expense of individual accomplishment, however, equitable practices and effective leadership can foster high levels of satisfaction for high-performing individuals in small-group learning environments; (b) strong barriers inhibit the viability of team learning in the college classroom, including traditional context, static method, and lecture-bound instructors.
Team Hachi Project results are significant for higher education because they offer the following: (a) a practical framework for aligning classroom practices with student needs and cultural values; (b) methods for enhancing student ability to contribute at work and in society; (c) illumination of barriers to adaptability in a turbulent environment; (d) approaches for enhancing student performance and satisfaction through interdependent learning processes.
Keywords: team learning, higher education, group dynamics, Japanese higher education, system theory, leadership, organizational behavior, social psychology, change management.