This is a Work In Progress (WIP) paper. In the various team experiences students have in a curriculum, they may or may not develop effective team behaviors. While the benefits and importance of teaching teaming within an engineering curriculum are well documented, many engineering graduates lack these valuable skills. Some faculty have traditionally considered these skills to be “outside of the curriculum”. When there is instruction of teaming skills it is primarily relegated to cornerstone and capstone design courses. Even when it is present in these courses, formal instruction on teamwork may be limited. From benchmarking professors’ teaming practices at our institution we found significant variation in teaming instruction and how team dysfunction is handled within named required courses in our curriculum.
In this work-in-progress, we aim to clarify the mode and content of formal instruction faculty in [department] at [institution] give students on teaming, what dysfunctions are perceived as most prevalent, and what frameworks are used for handling dysfunction. Further, we also seek to understand the challenges faculty in [department] at [institution] report in in relation to including formal teaming instruction and dealing with teaming dysfunction as it occurs. Teaming is prevalent in the [department] curriculum already. The challenges we are interested in are those under a faculty member’s control. Prior survey data was used to guide more focused questions to clarify teaming practices for formal instruction and handling dysfunction. Faculty focus groups organized around common courses where teaming is used illuminate the practices and capture the challenges faculty report.
Preliminary analysis indicates that few faculty engage students in formal teaming instruction and when they do it is often off-loaded to online tools. However, some faculty members implement constructive activities such as role-playing or exploring best-practices for team meetings and comparing them to their own experiences. Faculty feel challenged to fit teaming instruction in with content learning objectives and report lack of expertise. Most faculty reported not dealing with team dysfunction unless a student initiated a request for help. Some felt students should be able to handle dysfunction on their own. A few faculty members reported proactive practices aimed at preventing team dysfunction before it occurs, e.g., through creating a team contract for team behavior. A few faculty members also reported purposeful engagement with teams to identify and constructively process team dysfunction, where they moderate listening and hearing each team members’ perspectives and facilitate team member generated solutions.
This work is part of a larger curriculum vision project where we are seeking to coordinate threads, such as teaming, across our curriculum. We have already mapped where teaming experiences occur and have collected logistical information about these experiences. The present report provides further clarification of teaming practices and challenges associated with implementing formal teaming skill instruction and dealing with team dysfunction as it occurs. Future work includes collecting student input on their teaming experiences in the curriculum and developing ready-reference guides for faculty summarizing evidence-based practices for team formation, teaming instruction, and handling team dysfunction. This information feeds into our change model of building shared vision through departmental discussion and deliberation and supporting reflective teachers through processing the data from our curriculum and learning about and implementing evidence-based practices.
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