The impact of team formation processes on curriculum alignment in communication courses in an international context

Caroline Brandt


This paper reports on research into instructional practices aimed at developing undergraduates’ team competencies in communication courses at an engineering university in the Arabian Gulf. Following reports from students of several difficulties, the research set out to investigate the team work experience from students’ perspectives. Qualitative data were gathered via several instruments from 42 teams and were analyzed and synthesized to optimize opportunity for familiarization, understanding and comparison via collation and annotation. It was found that team formation processes can have a major effect on the quality of the student experience of teamwork. While self-selection was identified as the most popular approach among students and instructors, the influence of several classroom management factors frequently results in teams that are not fully self-selected. This can lead to unevenness in task completion, with motivated students compensating for others’ lack of effort. In this situation, some students find themselves overloaded to the detriment of their overall performance, while others are able to sidestep or participate less fully in some key course components. For some students therefore, instruction, assessment and outcomes are not fully integrated. Following Biggs’ (1999) concept of the “constructively aligned” curriculum, in which all components serve the same goals and support each other, recommendations aimed at enhanced curriculum alignment are made, while accounting for cultural dimensions identified in the context.

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