Engineering educators strive to prepare their students for success in the engineering workforce. Increasingly, many career paths will require engineering graduates to work in multi-disciplinary teams with individuals possessing a diversity of skill sets, backgrounds and identities. Working effectively with diversity and implementing inclusive practices relies on attitudes and skills that can be learned and developed by undergraduate students. These skills can be integrated into team-based assignments, provided the assignments are designed to teach students teamwork skills which include valuing diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, it is important that this instruction occurs longitudinally throughout the engineering curriculum, giving students an opportunity to grow their skills over time. While engineering mechanics courses are not always associated with student team projects, these courses provide the opportunity to show students how teamwork and diversity are relevant to problem solving. And, as mechanics oriented courses often dominate the sophomore and junior level of many programs, they are potentially an important venue for teaching students about working with others and in teams.
This paper introduces and examines the effects of a teamwork intervention in Statics aimed at teaching students about the importance of diversity and inclusion in engineering with specific attention to diverse teams. Students were required to complete a series of tasks before, during, and after a class session focused on the design of a crane system. Before class students watched and reflected on a video about the impact of diversity on team problem solving. The in-class design problem was intentionally “stretched” beyond the Statics curriculum, requiring that students implement knowledge distributed to different individuals in the group via a series of unique hints (representing a diversity of knowledge among group members). After completing the assignment outside of class, students were asked to respond to five questions to evaluate the impact of the assignment. Results from the qualitative analysis of the data show the effectiveness of the approach in making the students aware of the importance of diversity in engineering teams and the unique experiences and skills that each team member can bring to the table when solving problems. Findings also indicated students were able to develop their own strategies to incorporate team input. Suggestions to enhance the activity and implications for integrating similar interventions in other mechanics classrooms will also be provided and discussed.
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