This research paper looks at whether the formal integration of three required introductory courses across two university colleges improves students’ effectiveness as team members working together on a final design project and presentation. First-year experiences and course integration programs of many kinds have been implemented and carefully studied (Bannerot, Kastor, & Ruchhoeft, 2010; Enke, 2011; Smith 2011; Gardner, 2013). Previous research in this area has focused mainly on STEM-only integration or on limited residential and academic learning communities; reports generally confirm the potential for integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum to improve student learning transfer, academic engagement, and sense of community. Our integration program extends this work, and this analysis describes how student teamwork is effected when multiple courses are formally integrated across disciplines.
Administrators and instructors at this large research university collaborated to organize and teach paired sections of Technology, English, and Communication courses. In each introductory Technology course, there are 40-45 students enrolled; of these, 20-25 are enrolled together in an introductory Communication course, and 20 are enrolled together in an introductory English course. The program was implemented for six sections of each course during the Fall 2016 semester. Another six sections of the introductory Technology course were taught with the same curriculum, but without the formal integration with English and Communication. In both classes, a multi-part group project was assigned for the last half of the semester. Teams were periodically asked to rate each team member’s performance using the Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness (CATME) tool.
Repeated use of peer evaluation in similar courses has shown increases in student effectiveness ratings and ratings of other team members, suggesting growing team cohesion. By analyzing the repeated use of peer evaluation in integrated versus non-integrated courses, we examine whether the increased sense of community has an effect on student responses on peer evaluation. We compare student participation rates on the peer evaluation to test whether one setting better encourages peer feedback. We also compare how effectiveness ratings from peers change over time to examine potential differences in growth between the integrated and non-integrated courses. Finally, we compare reported satisfaction on the team project to see if there is a difference between the two conditions.
Our findings will explore what differences emerge when CATME responses are analyzed and compared across sections and interpret our findings within the context of the course integration program. This data will contribute to our ongoing assessment and refinement of the integration. Whether applied to integrated courses or traditional courses, these findings may show the impact of improved feelings of community in the classroom for collaborative learning, peer evaluation, and student growth.
Bannerot, R., Kastor, R., & Ruchhoeft, P. (2010). Multidisciplinary Capstone Design at the University of Houston. Advances in Engineering Education 2(1), 1–33.
Gardner, A. F. (2013). Predicting Community College Student Success by Participation in a First-Year Experience Course. (Unpublished dissertation). Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC.
Enke, K. A. E. (2011). Lasting Connections: A Case Study of Relationships Formed During a First-Year Seminar Course. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 23(1), 75-102.
Smith, R. (2011). Learning Community Transitions in the First Year: A Case Study of Academic and Social Network Change. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 23(2), 13–31.
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