During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the entire education ecosystem. Many students had to forego the opportunity for international travel, which had promised to prepare them for work in multicultural teams.
In response, two institutions, HEG Geneva, Switzerland and the Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development (SCMHRD) in Pune, India, joined forces to offer their students the opportunity to engage in global, international and intercultural learning despite the closing of borders around the world.
The program brought together 67 Bachelor students from Geneva and 24 MA students from 15 different states within India, to form 12 multicultural teams for four weeks during the spring semester of 2021.
Four were formed by the students themselves, five by the faculty and three at random. The key lecturers were Belbin Accredited, and were able to put their knowledge to the test!
Each team received their Belbin Individual reports (and Team reports) prior to the course, to enable them to leverage their individual strengths, raise awareness of complementarities within their teams, and to focus attention on commonalities rather than difference, for the duration of their virtual project work.
Regardless of how the teams were composed, the course facilitators – and students – discovered that understanding the Belbin framework enabled them to work effectively together and to compensate for missing Team Roles. Students came to understand the importance of diversity of contribution, and the value of behavioural “suitability” to a particular task or responsibility, as well as traditional “eligibility” (the hard skills, qualifications or experience which might recommend someone to a particular role).
It wasn’t all plain sailing. Course leaders reported that different accents and dialects affected understanding, and time differences made it challenging to work in groups. There were assumptions and miscommunications and long days in front of screens, but armed with their Belbin knowledge, the students were able to clarify queries and work through their differences, so that ultimately, intercultural interactions within the team made the journey rewarding.
Overall, one student claimed, Belbin saved valuable time, allowing the new team to hit the ground running with a shorthand for the way they worked that enabled them to collaborate more efficiently. Another described that process taught him how to think as a team, build trust, and give up control and allow others to take the lead when necessary.
The students were pleased to report that the practical intervention taught them valuable lessons that couldn’t be gleaned from lectures or textbooks, and which have stood them in good stead as they progress in their careers.
We’re always delighted to hear of the impact Belbin is having across further and higher education. If you’d like to find out more about Belbin for students or how to incorporate Belbin on your course, please get in touch and our small, friendly team will be happy to help.
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