The Last Straw: Teaching Project Team Dynamics to Third-Year Students

  • Sunet EybersEmail author
  • Marie J. Hattingh
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 963)


Educators in Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) are under constant pressure to improve their educational practices such as teaching. Adding to the challenges are the need to expose, and as a result equip students, with practical real life skills such as project management. Lack of behavioural aspects (also referred to as ‘soft skills’) is often identified as main contributing factor to the failure of projects. Whilst many educational programmes focus on the technical aspects of project management, the behavioural aspects of project management are often neglected. In an attempt to address these challenges, an experiential learning approach (ELA) was adopted to expose students to team dynamics and team roles. The research question was: How effective was the adoption of an experiential learning approach to introduce students to the theoretical constructs of team development and the subsequent roles fulfilled by team members? This question was investigated after allowing students to complete a team-based activity, whereby students had to build a tower using straws, sticky tape and cardboard in an attempt to identify and explain Tuckman’s phases as well as Belbin’s team roles. The findings of our study, based on survey data completed by students on completion of their activity, indicated the experiential learning approach is successful in teaching students the practical aspects associated with Tuckman’s stages of team development as well as Belbin’s team roles. The lessons learnt from this experience are given as recommendations to educators to improve the learning experiences associated with ELA in the context of project management.


Project management Behavioural skills Experiential learning approach (ELA) 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of InformaticsUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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