Academic alignment to reduce the presence of 'social loafers' and 'diligent isolates' in student teams

20 Jun 2011

The acquisition of effective teamwork skills is crucial in all disciplines. Using an interpretive approach, this study investigates collaboration and co-operation in teams of software engineering students. Teams whose members were both homogeneous and heterogeneous in terms of their members’ academic abilities, skills and goals were identified and compared. We describe the occurrence of “social loafing”, a well-reported phenomenon, in these teams. We also observed a phenomenon which we termed “diligent isolation.” Our assumption was that both of these can cause team dysfunction. Additional causes which became apparent during the research are mentioned. The article includes suggestions for improving team functionality.