Student team formation based on learning styles at university start: Does it make a difference to the students?

Tine Nielsen, Anna E Hvas, Annemette Kjaergaard

Abstract


This paper presents the design, implementation, and evaluation of a process of team formation based on learning styles profiles. At admittance to Copenhagen Business School 124 BSc students (Business Economics/Psychology) completed the Danish Self-Assessment Learning Styles Inventory (Nielsen, 2005a) based on Sternberg?ǨѢs Theory of Mental Self-Government (Sternberg, 1997). A set of criteria for team formation was designed with ?Ǩ?ifferentiation?Ǩof learning styles as the overall strategy. At the start of the first term and in connection with a course in Psychological Testing, students were informed about the team-formation criteria and the resulting teams, and were given a lecture on learning styles and their possible uses. In addition, students were given their personal learning styles profile and materials for interpretation. At the end of the semester, an internet-based evaluation survey on the students?ǨѢ uses of and benefits from the learning styles tools and team formation during the term (n = 96, 77%) was conducted. Two focus group interviews were conducted to elaborate on the survey results (n = 10). Analyses showed that students used the learning styles profiles and benefitted from the group-formation process in a number of different ways: (1) as a tool for understanding personal learning processes and how they relate to others in learning situations, and (2) individual profiles were shared and discussed in the majority of teams. Some of the benefits from the team-formation process were: (1) a sense of improved understanding of the learning processes of co-students and co-team members; (2) a feeling of improved preparedness learning wise for their university study; and (3) improved teamwork competency. In addition, a number of students in the open comments and focus groups emphasised that the group-formation process had facilitated: (1) a more professional approach to the teamwork, with longer and more differentiated discussions on subjects, content and assignments, and (2) a greater degree of tolerance of differences than they usually showed towards team members, thereby avoiding conflicts that would have arisen if teams had not been formed professionally. Overall, this conscious process of team composition based on learning style profiles gave students insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their profile and how this related to teamwork as well as first hand experience of ?Ǩ?eing on the client/receiver end?Ǩof the different processes involved in psychological testing, test feedback, and group formation. It is very important to stress that this method of team formation requires very careful consideration and should not be implemented uncritically; there needs to be a clear rationale and coherence between aims and means.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082

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