2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Work in Progress: Micro-skills and Mini-habits in Engineering Student Teams: Facilitating a Confluence of Perspectives and Talent

Presented at Teaming & Collaborative Learning

The focus of this work in progress is to identify the micro-level patterns of behavior that enable realization of the value implicit in member diversity that can be leveraged to achieve higher levels of project team performance through improved teamwork. Diversity is commonly defined as a characteristic of groups of two or more people and usually indicates demographic differences among group members. However, two layers of diversity attributes were identified by researchers: (a) the surface level (e.g., age, gender, race, and physical disabilities, Mannix & Neale, 2005); and (b) the deep level (e.g., cognitive ability, personality traits, values, beliefs, and attitudes, Harrison, Price, Gavin, & Florey, 2002). Many studies on team diversity have focused on surface-level attributes because deep-level diversity tends to be difficult to explore. Recent research shows that deep-level diversity has the greatest impact on team dynamics and performance and not with overt surface-level qualities (e.g., Vodosek, 2007; Woehr, Arciniega, & Poling, 2013).

Even though there are some challenges for heterogeneous teams, future researchers and practitioners need to emphasize how to make deep-level diversity an asset. Recognizing underlying causes of team members' conflicts due to diversity and using appropriate interventions that empower team members to deal with future challenges can be helpful for managing teamwork (Brett et al., 2006). The negative effect of individual differences may be alleviated by an effort to actively understand the differences and share a common goal and vision. A better understanding of the micro-level habits that generate positive processes in the teams that are generating value from deep-level diversity will provide a step forward in developing better team learning structures. Our study will focus on university students in a STEM field who are participating in a 48-hour intensive design experience over three days. This will allow us to monitor teams in a controlled environment for the entire duration from formation of team to completion of the tasks. We plan to collect data about the teams and their interactions to assess the team dynamics in effective and ineffective teams, using a variety of methods, including video analysis, focus groups, questionnaires, and sociometric badges. Developing a better understanding of team learning especially in STEM fields is important as they are the primary source of future workforce, and their competencies working in diverse teams in the real world will be significantly influenced by their experiences prior to entering the workplace.

  1. Ms. Soo Jeoung Han Texas A&M University [biography]
  2. Prof. Michael Beyerlein Texas A&M University [biography]
  3. Dr. Jill Zarestky Colorado State Univeristy [biography]
  4. Lei Xie Texas A&M University [biography]
  5. Prof. Khalil M. Dirani Texas A&M University [biography]
  6. Mr. Rodney Boehm Texas A&M University [biography]

The full paper will be available to logged in and registered conference attendees once the conference starts on June 24, 2017, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 28, 2018

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