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Comparing team learning approaches through the lens of activity theory

Sunyoung Park (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)
Yonjoo Cho (Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Seung Won Yoon (Texas A&M University, Commerce, Texas, USA)
Heeyoung Han (Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine, Springfield, Illinois, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 8 November 2013




The purpose of this study is to examine the distinctive features of three team learning approaches (action learning, problem-based learning, and project-based learning), compare and contrast them, and discuss implications for practice and research.


The authors used Torraco ' s integrative literature review method and activity theory as a framework for analyzing commonalities and differences of the three learning approaches.


Action learning emphasizes the balance between action and learning, problem-based learning has evolved to develop knowledge acquisition, application, and reasoning skills, and project-based learning connects learning with work. All three learning approaches are learner-centered, tackle real problems, emphasize collaboration, have a learning coach, and work through learning processes.

Research limitations/implications

Comparison of the three approaches has been done through a review of the literature only. More qualitative analyses of actual cases need to be done to confirm or improve the findings. Qualitative knowledge from this study should be linked to quantitative research.

Practical implications

Comparison of each team learning approach provides team managers, instructional designers, and instructors with guidance of pedagogy selection regarding what particular team learning approach fits best for their organizational learning needs. Six components of activity theory can be useful to evaluate team learning interventions.


The findings can be used for clarifying the relationships among the three learning approaches, and can guide HRD practice and research in line with improved team learning design, process, and measurement. The current study is possibly the first attempt to analyze the three team learning approaches based on activity theory.



Park, S., Cho, Y., Yoon, S.W. and Han, H. (2013), "Comparing team learning approaches through the lens of activity theory", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 37 No. 9, pp. 788-810.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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