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A Pilot Study Of Engineering Design Teams Using Protocol Analysis

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.89.1 - 12.89.10



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Paper Authors

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Chell Roberts Arizona State University

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Senay Purzer

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Darryl Morrell

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Mark Henderson Arizona State University

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Scott Danielson Arizona State University

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Nancy Cooke Arizona State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Pilot Study of Engineering Design Teams Using Protocol Analysis


The development of design, problem solving, and communications skills within a team setting is a crucial component of the education of a globally competitive engineer. The importance of these attributes has been repeatedly recognized, by both the National Academy of Engineering and Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the accrediting body for engineering programs in the United States. Unfortunately, very little is known about the dynamics of engineering team-based engineering design and problem solving processes. How do the team processes of experts differ from those of novices? How do students develop the necessary skills over time? In this paper we present background on the problem and a Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) pilot study of freshman engineering team design and team processes as a step in the development of an empirically based understanding to address these questions. The research method used was based on the methods and the design categories used by Atman, Cardella, and Robin1. An important distinction is that Atman’s work was exclusive to individuals while our pilot used student teams. The pilot study was conducted in an introduction to engineering class. Data was collected and analyzed for four teams (three teams consisting of four team members and one team consisting of three team members). The pilot study resulted in the development of a modified verbal coding schema for team design processes. Broader findings of the pilot study included a difference between team and individual design activities, a need to add process to the content categories analyzed, a need to improve our instrumentation, and a need to acquire better software for the coding and analysis of the design activities.


ABET requires that all accredited engineering and engineering technology programs demonstrate student attainment of outcomes related to design and problem solving. For instance, the engineering accreditation Criterion 3 published in 20052 specifically addresses design, problem solving, communication, and teams: “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability (criterion 3b);” “an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams (criterion 3d);” “an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems criterion 3e;” and “an ability to communicate effectively (criterion 3g)”.

Two of the recent National Academy of Engineering reports, The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century3 and Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century4, recognize the growing need for teaming skills to solve increasingly complex problems in a global context (p.10) and criticize the lack of a research- based assessment of these skills. Educational research in engineering is still in its infancy in terms of the development of effective assessments for measuring a variety of professional engineering skills, such as the ability to function in multidisciplinary teams5. What is known about what happens in engineering work groups often relies on self-reports6 rather than evidence-based measures of group dynamics. In short, little is known about good team

Roberts, C., & Purzer, S., & Morrell, D., & Henderson, M., & Danielson, S., & Cooke, N. (2007, June), A Pilot Study Of Engineering Design Teams Using Protocol Analysis Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2811

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