Engineering has become a globally focused career with the need to work with people from diverse backgrounds. Researchers seeking to improve students’ teaming skills have found ways to assess team member effectiveness and development of teaming skills. Despite the emphasis on the importance of developing engineering students’ teaming skills, little research has been conducted on how students develop sensitivity for students from different cultures and backgrounds within teams in first-year engineering programs. Here we define diversity sensitivity as students’ multicultural openness and actions taken to incorporate diverse students. To address the lack of literature on diversity and teaming this work examines the following research questions: What changes occur in students’ diversity sensitivity, multicultural effectiveness, and engineering practices as a result of working in diverse teams? How do students’ perceptions of diversity, affect, and engineering practices change as a result of working on diverse teams?
The focus of this paper is on the first phase of this three phase project, in which students’ multicultural openness, diversity sensitivity, and teaming effectiveness were measured quantitatively. Additionally, results from qualitative in-depth interviews further develop emerging trends in the quantitative portions of the work. Survey data were collected from participants enrolled in first semester first-year engineering programs at two institutions (n = 1206) as well as data from the Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness (n = 2763 inclusive of survey participants). We used linear modeling, advanced clustering techniques, and pre-post comparisons to understand underlying student attitudes as well as the ways in which students’ attitudes may shift over the course of the semester. Preliminary results indicate that students’ awareness of diversity increased over the semester; however, unwillingness to take action to support diverse groups also increased. We also found that student attitudes towards teaming are ‘sticky’ and difficult to shift over a single-semester experience even when teaming effectiveness and diversity are explicitly taught in the classroom. Additionally, five teams were observed throughout the course of the semester. These observations were conducted to understand how students interact in ways both explicit and implicit. that may or may not improve belongingness in engineering during teaming activities. Students from teams were interviewed individually after completion of their project to understand their perceptions of diversity. Initial trends indicate a valuing of diversity but a lack of adaptation for diverse individuals due to the demands of engineering tasks. Results of this quantitative and qualitative work were used to further refine instruments and data collection protocols for replication in the subsequent phases of the project.
Addressing how student teaming experiences influence students’ diversity sensitivity and multicultural openness can uncover how we can train engineers to work to include diverse individuals in engineering and potentially warm the chilly climate in engineering. Creating environments and individuals who are fostering of and open to diversity can serve to generate engineers who are capable of designing for diverse needs when addressing the grand challenges in engineering. The next phase of this study will include an expansion to two additional institutions.
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