2019 FYEE Conference

An Evaluation of a First-Year Civil Engineering Student Group Dynamics Intervention

Presented at M2B: Learning in teams

This full paper evaluates first year civil engineering students’ responses to a series of reflective questions based on a group dynamics intervention presented halfway through their first semester introduction to civil engineering course. The intervention is sponsored through an NSF project and involved students watching a group conflict scenario presented in class by professional actors role-playing three college students. The scenario is designed to illustrate biases that can negatively impact group dynamics –including both racial-based and gender-based biases. The intervention included interactive components where the presenters led the students in a discussion and reflection exercise. As part of the interactive component, several students volunteered to intervene as a fourth group member and attempt to improve the group dynamic in a re-running of the scenario. The effectiveness of the intervention strategies were discussed within the group and with the entire class.
In the week following the in-class intervention students completed a reflection assignment by answering the following questions: 1) What types of conflicts did you see in the role-playing presentation?, 2) What types of conflict resolution did you see tried in the exercise? Did you think they were good?, 3) Have you experienced team conflicts? If so, what was the source of the conflict?, and 4) What approach would you try to resolve team conflict? This paper presents the results of an evaluation of these student responses. In the first pass through the data NVIVO was used to automatically code responses to identify global themes in the responses. The results were disaggregated by responders’ self-identified sex. A total of 60 students, 19 female and 41 male students provided consent to the project out of a class of 94 students. The results of this analysis indicated that 68.4% females and 70.7 % males referenced gender, sex, girl, or female in their response to question 1, regarding types of conflict. In responses to question 2, regarding the conflict resolution, 57.8% of females, and 53.7% of males referenced gender, sex, girl, or female in their response. These results indicate that both the males and females were equally aware of sexism in the conflict and conflict resolution attempts in the group dynamics intervention. In the analysis of responses to all four questions, only 5.2% of females and 9.7% of males mentioned race or ethnicity in their responses despite this bias being present in a minor manner in the scenario. This result implies that the students focused more heavily on conflict based on gender and not on race or ethnicity. In response to question 3, 80% of the first year civil engineering students indicated they had not experienced team conflicts before. A second manual coding of the responses was performed to look at more subtle themes –specifically students’ preferences in conflict resolution strategies based on responders’ sex. This paper presents these results regarding the theme of preferred strategies.

  1. Anna Norris Colorado State University [biography]
  2. Dr. Alistair Cook Colorado State University
  3. Dr. Rebecca A Atadero Colorado State University [biography]
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