To Be or not to Be Part of a Team: Decision Dynamics, Winners and Losers in Teamwork

Proceedings of The 4th International Conference on Teaching, Learning and Education

Year: 2021


[Fulltext PDF]

To Be or not to Be Part of a Team: Decision Dynamics, Winners and Losers in Teamwork

Stephan Schmucker and Sönke Häseler



This paper empirically revisits the question of team performance versus individual performance while taking a closer look at the decision dynamics within the teams. The findings are based on a sample of 108 undergraduate students. Having completed an individual assignment, the students were grouped in dyads and then given the same assignment once again as a team. That way, we were able to trace the team output back to the individual members’ input. We find that on average, the teams only marginally outperformed the student in each team who achieved the higher individual result. Moreover, the teams failed to effectively exploit available information about their individual members’ relative strength. An analysis of who prevails in intra-team discussions showed that higher-performing students are more likely to assert themselves; however, in many cases they were also mislead by their partner’s deviating opinion. Overall, we identify a worrisome amount of ‘negative learning’, i.e., instances of students emerging from the team exercise knowing less than they did before. The results add to the existing body of evidence that suggests caution when assigning to teams a task that could also be accomplished individually. Our novel analysis of the decision dynamics within the dyads more specifically sheds some light on whether teamwork is beneficial for low- versus high-performance individuals, with some implications for instructors and managers.

Keywords: dyads, team performance, decision dynamics, peer instruction, higher education.