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An Examination of Mentoring Functions in the Capstone Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.173.1 - 22.173.16



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Paper Authors

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James J. Pembridge Virginia Tech


Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center. Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is co-PI on several NSF grants to explore design education.

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An Examination of Mentoring Functions in the Capstone CoursePast studies (including prior work by the co-authors) have demonstrated that faculty involved inthe capstone course perceive their roles as guiding the scope of the project, aiding students withidentifying necessary technical information, as well as assisting students in the development oftheir deliverables while maintaining student motivation and involvement in the course. In theliterature describing capstone courses, authors typically classify these types of activities as“mentoring,” though the term has also been used interchangeably with coaching, supervising,and managing. Regardless of the terminology, however, these studies clearly demonstrate thatthe role of the mentor is critical to support students as they integrate engineering theory andpractice, grapple with the complexities of open-ended problems, and deal with performanceanxiety. By more fully understanding the function and roles of this mentoring relationship, thedesign education community can more effectively support both current and new faculty as theyenter into this critical teaching and learning environment..To provide this understanding, this paper applies a well-developed theory of mentoring to thespecific context of capstone design. Kathy Kram (1985) has developed a theory based on a studyof young managers that were mentored in a corporate environment, that suggests that thefunctions of the mentor include career and psychosocial development of the protégé. In their roleof aiding protégés career development, mentors provide the protégé with sponsorship, visibility,coaching, protection, and challenging assignments. From a psychosocial perspective, facultyprovide student protégés with role modeling, acceptance, counseling, and friendship.This paper applies Kram’s framework to data from a 2009 national survey of capstone designfaculty to explore the mentoring that occurs in the capstone course. Within the survey, thefunctions are explored through self-reports of faculty beliefs and teaching practices. Findingswill report on how each of the mentoring functions defined by Kram are present in the capstonecourse as well as what factors of mentoring relationships correlate with these characteristics. Theresults provide the engineering education community with a more complete understanding of thenature of design teaching in a way that can be used not only for professional development ofcurrent design faculty, but also in the training of new design educators.

Pembridge, J. J., & Paretti, M. C. (2011, June), An Examination of Mentoring Functions in the Capstone Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17454

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