Cohering Small Group Communication with Introduction to Engineering and its Impact on Team Dynamics
This paper will describe the impact of cohering two first year courses, Introduction to Engineering and Small Group Communication on team dynamics in a semester-long design project. One of the important skills for successful engineering students is their ability to work effectively in a team environment. There are many opportunities for students to participate in team-based work in various courses and capstone projects to help them practice teamwork skills. However, in many cases, students are on their own to make their teams work and these team-based activities do not necessarily allow students to develop effective teamwork abilities. At [Institution], two cohorts of first year engineering students took Introduction to Engineering and Small Group Communication together during Fall 2018 semester that have cohered schedule, content, and assignments, around a semester-long project. The Introduction to Engineering course focuses on the engineering design process, opportunity identification, problem definition, design criteria, imagining possible solutions, decision making, descriptive and predictive modeling, project management, technical communication as well as various tools, skills, and technical concepts that are relevant for the project. The Small Group Communication course focuses on developing skills towards working in task-oriented groups; engaging in effective role performance; decreasing communication apprehension in small group settings; problem-solving and decision-making in small group settings; developing conflict management skills; managing and planning tasks; etc.
The impact of this model on team dynamics in the design project is assessed using the CARE model and assessment tool developed by the Individual and Team Performance Lab at University of Calgary [1-2]. This assessment tool contains 81 Likert Scale questions about Team Dynamics covering the following areas: strategy formulation & planning; role clarity; cooperative conflict management; team monitoring & backup; goal progression; coordination; contribution equity; healthy, fact-driven conflict; lack of personal conflict; trust; constructive controversy; exploitative learning; exploratory learning. The control group involves students enrolled in four sections of the traditional Introduction to Engineering course during the same semester. This assessment tool was given to both groups once during the middle of the semester and once at the end of the semester. Quantitative results from both groups will be compared and discussed. Participants from both groups are also recruited for an observation of how they work as a team during one 3-hr project work session. Insights from the observation will also be shared.
 Larson, N. L., Hoffart, G., O’Neill, T. A., Rosehart, W., Brennan, R., & Eggermont, M. (2015, June). Team CARE model: Assessing team dynamics in first-year engineering student teams. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Seattle, WA.
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