From Shared Mental Models to Team Effectiveness


Dr. Piet van der Bossche, Catherine Gabelica (ERD).

Co-operation with HiTecs/Stork, Leids Universitair Medisch Centrum, AMI.

Further information

Teams are increasingly employed to discuss and manage complex problems. They are ascribed great potential because they are capable of contributing different knowledge bases, integrating different perspectives and building new understandings. During the past decade, cognitive science has substantially influenced the study of team performance. Team cognition is hereby used as an organizing framework (Akkerman, S., Van den Bossche, P., Admiraal, W., Gijselaers, W., Segers, M., Simons, R.-J., et al., 2007). Until now, researchers have mainly focused on the role of shared mental models in their study of team cognition (Van den Bossche, Gijselaers, Segers & Kirschner, 2007). Although successful, this strand of research is limited because ultimately a full integration of individual cognitions would reduce the availability of alternative solutions, thereby resulting in decreased effectiveness. The construct of a transactive memory system is presented as a necessary amendment to the construct of shared mental models. It describes a social network of individual minds that transcends uniform agreement, representing the way teams use the distributed cognition available in the team (Wegner et al., 1985). By focusing on both integration and compilation of cognitions in teamwork, the research proposed addresses how these two forms of emergent team cognition interact to produce effective teamwork in terms of performance, viability and learning. Moreover, the role of interpersonal processes in the development of these team cognitions will be investigated: psychological safety, perceived interdependence, group potency and task cohesion (Van den Bossche, et al., 2007).

This research questions how team cognitions integrate and compile in relation with interpersonal variables and what the cognitive properties are of effective teams. Three studies are conducted; two model validation studies (short-term teams in a controlled environment; project-teams in organizations) and an intervention study. The latter investigates the influence of supporting the interpersonal processes for the development of team cognition.

Gabelica, C., P. van den Bossche, M. Segers, W. Gijselaers, ‘Feedback, a powerful lever in teams: a review’, Educational Research Review, Vol. 7 (2), pp. 123-144, June 2012.
Gabelica, Catherine, Moving Teams Forward, Effects of Feedback and Team Reflexivity on Team Performance, Thesis, Maastricht University, 4 December 2014.