Department of Management

Teaming up: The role of team formation and team learning in entrepreneurship education

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review

Questions we care about (Objectives): When students have to work on challenging tasks, as it is
often the case in entrepreneurship classrooms that leverage experiential learning, team success
becomes central to the students learning. Yet, the formation of teams is often left up to the
students or pre-arranged at random. Therefore we investigate the importance of team formation in
the entrepreneurial classroom and ask: (i) What are the underlying factors that influence outcomes
of teamwork in student groups? (ii) How does team formation influence student perception of
learning?, and (iii) Do different team formation strategies produce different teamwork and
learning outcomes?
Approach: We employed a multiple case study design comprising of 38 student teams to uncover
potential links between team formation and student perception of learning. This research draws on
data from three different entrepreneurship process (‘through’) modules at a single institution. The
three modules all combine similar theoretical background knowledge (e.g. effectuation,
opportunities and business models) with hands-on tools (e.g. design process) to stimulate active
participation, but are characterized by three distinctive types of team formation: random teacher
pre-assigned, student selection, and teacher directed diversity. In each of these modules,
ethnographic methods (interviews and observations) were employed. Additionally, we had access
to students learning logs, formative and summative assessments, and final exams. A rigorous
coding and inductive analysis process was undertaken. Pattern and relationship coding were used
to reveal underlying factors, which helped to unveil important similarities and differences between
student in different teams’ project progress and perception of learning.
Results: When students are randomly assigned, they are (i) surprised by people, who are different
from them; (ii) challenged by having to find a common language; (iii) learn that heterogeneity
potentially produces individual identity growth. However, despite these advantages, random team
formation strategy leads to less well functioning entrepreneurial student teams as most teams lack
personal chemistry which makes them anchor their work too much in a pre-defined project. In
contrast, we find that students that can form their own teams aim for less diverse teams than what
is achieved by random assignment. However, the homophily the students are seeking with regards
to ‘personal chemistry’ seems to be favourable for entrepreneurial student teams because it
enables them to have team relationships as the anchor for their work. In this way the team
becomes an important enabler to endure the pressure and volatility of an entrepreneurial process
and progress relatively fast.
Implications: It is important for teachers to recognize that student team assignment is not the same
as student team formation and that team formation requires time. Furthermore, while student selfselection
team formation strategy is favorable for ‘through’ modules, random assignment is a
suitable choice for ‘for’ and rather causal-designed entrepreneurship modules.
Value/Originality: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper addressing the issue of team
formation and student learning which is of immense practical value for entrepreneurship educators.
It is important for educators to understand that the formation of teams has implications for
students’ perceived learning and progress in an entrepreneurial process and thus team formation
needs to be considered when designing and running the module.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year12 May 2016
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2016
Event3E Conference - ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference Leeds 2016 - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 May 201613 May 2016


Conference3E Conference - ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference Leeds 2016
LocationUniversity of Leeds
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Teams, Team formation, Learning, Entrepreneurship Education, Multiple case studies

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