By Iain Tinkler, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) Manager at Cantell School
Iain Tinkler is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) Manager at Cantell School, a mid-sized secondary school on the South Coast of England. He is also studying for a master’s degree in Transformational Leadership at Canterbury Christ Church University, investigating the impact of the Duke of Edinburgh expedition section on student leadership.
The Duke of Edinburgh expedition section
Each year, hundreds of thousands of 14-25 year olds participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a youth awards programme requiring participants to undertake a sustained period of volunteering, physical activity, and personal development through learning a skill. Participants also complete an expedition aimed at developing transferable skills, including leadership, teamwork, self-reliance and co-operation (Davies, 2012).
Background to the literature on leadership in outdoor contexts
Given that no formal leadership structure exists within Duke of Edinburgh teams, it is likely that a distributed (shared) leadership structure will emerge, with Erez et al. (2002) noting that:
“If the leadership responsibilities are rotated among members, a climate of shared leadership may be fostered and this should promote the overall capacity of the team to function and perform effectively.”
In view of this, effective teamwork is imperative for the functioning of a successful expedition group. The Duke of Edinburgh Expedition Guide (Davies, 2012) references five authors of leadership and teamwork theory, including Belbin (1981), and requires that all teams undergo team-building exercises during their training.
At the beginning of the 2018/19 academic year, 47 Year 9 and 10 students signed up to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh bronze award programme. Participants were split into six teams of between four and seven pupils. Despite my literature search indicating that teams should have a well-balanced distribution of Team Roles (Belbin, 2010), I elected to organise teams by the friendship preferences of the students. This decision was made following discussions with the students and was, I believed, in the best interests of the students, providing them with the best chance both to complete the expeditions, and to make life-long memories.
During the expedition training weekend in January, participants used the Belbin GetSet framework, via the Belbin GetSet Workbooks, (Belbin, 2010) to evaluate their own strengths and weakness, before using the Belbin Team Role circle to analyse the distribution of Team Roles within their assigned groups. This was built in to aid teams with identifying gaps in Team Roles and provided them with opportunities to identify methods of reducing the impact of such gaps.
Following the Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition, students were asked to reflect upon their teamwork and, with assistance from staff, returned to their Belbin GetSet Workbooks to identify potential causes of ineffectual teamwork.
Analysis of the distribution of Belbin Team Roles within each Duke of Edinburgh expedition team produced some interesting quantitative correlations with data collected using an adapted version of the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire (Neill et al., 2003). This was aimed at measuring the impact of Duke of Edinburgh on the development of factors which have been shown to be indicative of transformational leadership (Bass and Riggio, 2006).
Where teams had a well-balanced distribution of Belbin Team Roles, a strong positive effect size was observed in Life Effectiveness factors. This is shown in Table 1.
This effect was not observed in teams with poor Team Role distributions.
|Effect Size||Interpretation (Neill, 2007)|
Table 1: Summary of the overall effect size measured by the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire. Only data for members of Team 2 has been included.
However, this effect was not only observed in the quantitative data. It was clear to see that, where students engaged with the Belbin process, both initially and during reflection periods, team cohesion was better, and the team functioned more effectively.
As a school, we must now consider how we can continue to develop the integration of Belbin GetSet into our Duke of Edinburgh training programme whilst maintaining student satisfaction in keeping with their social groups.
Whilst this is the first year in which we have implemented the Belbin Team Roles into our Duke of Edinburgh expedition training framework, we have seen clear benefits to our students. The improved teamwork which was facilitated by the Belbin Team Roles GetSet workbooks provided a more fulfilling experience for our students, helping them to create fond, and long-lasting memories of the Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Further, it has been shown to be instrumental in aiding students in improving their leadership skills.
- BASS, B. M. & RIGGIO, R. E. 2006. Transformational leadership, Psychology Press.
- BELBIN, M. 1981. Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail, London, Heinemann.
- BELBIN, R. 2010. Management Teams, London, Routledge.
- DAVIES, A. 2012. The DofE Expedition Guide, Windsor, UK, The Award Scheme Ltd.
- EREZ, A., LEPINE, J. A. & ELMS, H. 2002. Effects of rotated leadereship and peer evaluation on the functioning and effectiveness of self-managed teams: a quasi-experiment. Personnel Psychology, 55, 929-948.
- MEHRA, A., SMITH, B. R., DIXON, A. L. & ROBERTSON, B. 2006. Distributed leadership in teams: The network of leadership perceptions and team performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 232-245.
- NEILL, J. T. 2007. Auto-calculation Spreadsheet for Measuring Life Effectiveness Questionnaire Outcomes.
- NEILL, J. T., MARSH, H. W. & RICHARDS, G. E. 2003. The Life Effectiveness Questionnaire: Development and Psychometrics, Sydney, University of Western Sydney.
Belbin GetSet is a 15-minute questionnaire culminating in a workbook full of personalised advice and guidance for young people aged between 14 and 19. It helps them identify their strengths, project them in a positive way and manage their weaknesses effectively.
The Belbin GetSet programme also offers a variety of free resources such as lesson plans and 45-minute soft-skills modules. Please contact us for further information. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01223 264975.