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A Comparison Between Collaborative Learning And Situated Learning Teams In Two Freshman Engineering Design Experiences

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Assessment Issues in 1st-Yr Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.21.1 - 10.21.12



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Paper Authors

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Edward Evans

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Sandra Spickard Prettyman

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Helen Qammar

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A Comparison between Collaborative Learning and Situated Learning Teams in Two Freshman Engineering Design Experiences Sandra Spickard Prettyman, Helen Qammar and Edward Evans Department of Foundations and Leadership/Department of Chemical Engineering University of Akron, Akron OH 44325

Abstract Many engineering programs have first-year design experiences that are designed to initiate students into the engineering community and enhance interest in engineering. In this paper we compare how team structure affects the acquisition of effective teaming skills in two different first-year design experiences. One structure consists of a vertically-integrated team of first-year students through seniors completing a 7 week design project in chemical engineering where the teams are constructed to enable situated learning (SL). The multi-level experience is an attempt to create a community of practice in which students can interact academically and socially1. The impact on the first-year students in the SL teams was compared to collaborative learning (CL) teams where students in a freshmen-only biomedical engineering course are assigned to 3-4 person groups and complete a level-appropriate design problem. The purpose of the comparison was to determine if the structure of the team yields differences in learned teaming skills as well as how they learned. Analysis of a Team Characteristics Survey and student short answer responses indicates that both experiences generate a positive attitude toward engineering but that SL first-year students engaged in higher levels of metacognition and acquired a more complete perception of effective teams.

Purpose Educators must fully prepare students in the best practices and attributes of teams. Our graduates will be expected to contribute in a collaborative environment such that their efforts yield success either for a competitive advantage or in civic engagement2. Engineering students must acquire these skills in addition to discipline-specific technical expertise. Unfortunately, a typical student experiences a learning environment with high rewards for individual achievement and little or no emphasis on critical skills such as cooperation, trust, communication and leadership. McAnear and Seat3 correctly point out that teamwork skills are behavioral and teaching effective teaming requires different approaches than for the more cognitive engineering skills. What is needed in undergraduate education is a learning experience that requires teamwork and more closely simulates what students will experience in professional practice. In this paper we compare two experiences to determine how each contributes to the acquisition of effective teaming skills.

In the chemical engineering implementation of a vertically integrated team design project (VITDP), all undergraduates enroll in a one credit hour course called Project Management and Teamwork (I – IV) depending on academic level during the fall semester; total enrollment in this class is between 130 and 150 students. Ten member heterogeneous teams, consisting of freshmen through seniors, are formed following a set of rules that insures that each team has a minimum level of teamwork and technical expertise; team formation is based on performance data from prior VITDP activities. These SL teams work on an open-ended design problem over a five to “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Evans, E., & Spickard Prettyman, S., & Qammar, H. (2005, June), A Comparison Between Collaborative Learning And Situated Learning Teams In Two Freshman Engineering Design Experiences Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14447

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