Lowering the walls and crossing boundaries: applications of experiential learning to teaching collaboration

  • Dave Gosselin
  • Sara Cooper
  • Sydney Lawton
  • Ronald J Bonnstetter
  • Bill J Bonnstetter


Higher education is being confronted with a paradigm shift that is forcing it to collectively reexamine their ability to develop graduates who have relevant professional competencies. Collaboration and team work are competencies that are sought after by many employers. The creation of effective collaboration is critical to developing the interdisciplinary linkages that are necessary to confront the many environmental challenges posed by human activities and prepare today’s students to meet future intellectual and workforce demands. To address the challenge of developing collaboration skills, the Environmental Studies (ES) program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) used a backward curriculum design, multiple modalities of experiential learning, and a reflective action research approach to develop collaboration and teamwork skills in undergraduate students. The ES program partnered with Target Training International Ltd. (TTI), to gain insights into the use of their instruments as boundary objects to help student’s understand self and create interdisciplinary teams. Through the use of an instrument, the TriMetrix®, the UNL-ES program is taking a page from the business world and partnering with it to help students understand themselves, adapt their behaviors to more effectively work in a team, and be introduced to the concept of assessments and their use in the professional world. These assessments played a positive role in the dynamics of each group, some more than others. The analyses of these data for this class have informed us about how to improve the use of the assessment output in class. Specifically, we can use these data as specific examples in debriefing future classes. We have also identified certain mixtures of behavioral styles and motivational drivers that may be problematic to group work. Many students have experienced team projects. However, most students have not explicitly had to learn about the factors that go into effective collaboration or they have never been explicitly explained to them. This is particularly the case with regard to processes of developing shared responsibility.


Assessment Boundary objects Collaboration Teamwork Course design TriMetrix Target training international Content mastery 


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Gosselin
    • 1
  • Sara Cooper
    • 1
  • Sydney Lawton
    • 1
  • Ronald J Bonnstetter
    • 2
  • Bill J Bonnstetter
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Target Training International, Ltd.ScottsdaleUSA

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