An Exploration of Student Collaboration Networks in a Team-Based Capstone Course
Keywords:collaboration, social network analysis, team-based learning, capstone course
Learning is inherently a social act occurring through individualized interpretation and negotiations with diverse others. The ability to work with others within the learning environment and beyond is an essential skill. Student-centered teaching methods that emphasize active learning in a team setting have garnered much support across higher education. Recently, AGEDS 450 at Iowa State University was redesigned to further emphasize teamwork. Team-Based Learning (TBL) was incorporated within the capstone framework to promote higher levels of student collaboration, particularly for farm management decisions. TBL promotes higher order thinking and the application of course content in a real-world situation. For AGEDS 450, an actual farm serves as the applied learning laboratory where students make all decisions concerning its management and operation. This descriptive study sought to explore the collaboration networks of students enrolled in the fall 2015 (n = 61) and spring 2016 (n = 60) AGEDS 450. Social network analysis was utilized to construct and analyze student collaboration networks. Data were collected at the beginning and end of a 16-week semester in order to track development and/or growth of the collaboration network. The collaboration networks developed into cohesive structures encompassing all students within the course. With the increased interest in fostering teamwork in preparing students for careers, these results provide justification for the continued utilization of TBL. Further analysis of the TBL method is warranted with particular attention to longterm outcomes and skill attainment. It is recommended that TBL be implemented in other courses within colleges of agriculture to further examine its utility.