Asee peer logo

Assessing Effectiveness of a Ground Rule System for Group Work in Large Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


California State University, Los Angeles , California

Publication Date

April 4, 2019

Start Date

April 4, 2019

End Date

April 6, 2019

Conference Session

PSW Section Meeting Papers - Disregard start and end time - for online paper access only

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pacific Southwest Section Meeting Paper Submissions

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Christine E King University of California Irvine

visit author page

Dr. Christine King is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UC Irvine. She received her BS and MS from Manhattan College in Mechanical Engineering and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from UC Irvine, where she developed brain-computer interface systems for neurorehabilitation. She was a post-doctorate in the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a research manager in the Center for SMART Health, where she focused on wireless health monitoring for stroke and pediatric asthma. Her current research is on engineering education, specializing in pedagogy strategies to promote learning in design-build-test courses, including senior design, computer programming, and computer-aided-design courses.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Group work has become common practice in engineering education, as it allows students to learn teamwork skills while applying them to the course material. In particular, group work allows students to develop relationships among individuals, the team, and the task, as well as develop an understanding of group dynamics. Since positive group dynamics are created through team cohesion activities, much research has focused on developing activities using groupware systems. These systems enhance perceptions of the group environment by establishing common ground rules and shared expectations, but have historically been applied in the workplace rather than in an educational setting.

Building upon prior research findings that utilized team ground rules groupware systems to engineering education settings, this study assessed the repeatability, acceptability and effectiveness of using a ground rules system to improve team cohesion. In particular, the following research question was posed: 1) are previously developed ground rules systems repeatable in lower-division undergraduate engineering courses that perform group work? 2) does student team cohesion improve when team-specific ground rules are established prior to performing group projects? The system was applied to a large undergraduate group engineering project that focused on a design-build-test application of bioengineering principles using computer-aided-design. The sophomore level biomedical engineering course provided 21 teams of 5-6 students with a student contract that established which particular ground rules are acceptable given the team’s culture. Students were encouraged to use their ground rules and team contract throughout the course’s group project to improve team cohesion. A survey at the end of the project was used to assess the acceptability of the ground rule system to improve team cohesion, and its effectiveness was determined by comparing project scores of those who used the system to those who did not.

It was found that out of 112 respondents, 76% found that agreeing on ground rules prior to the project was useful and their team followed their chosen ground rules, and 53% of the respondents felt that their team were all very committed to the contract. Furthermore, only 12% of respondents found that some of their team members were not committed to the contract. In addition, students who were followed the ground rules system had higher scores on project performance than those who did not (p < 0.01). After comparing the effect of demographics such as gender, ethnicity, income, and class level, it was found that there is a significant gender bias towards males (p = 0.011, Pearson chi-square test statistic = 8.9625). This is an important and distinct finding from prior research, as it indicates that female students do not find ground rules systems as effective as male students do to improve team cohesion. These novel findings suggest that the ground rules system can improve team cohesion, and further validates prior findings from other institutions. However, further research is needed to understand how female students perceive and utilize ground rules systems, and how to make them more effective for this population type, particularly in lower-division undergraduate engineering settings.

King, C. E. (2019, April), Assessing Effectiveness of a Ground Rule System for Group Work in Large Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, California State University, Los Angeles , California. 10.18260/1-2--31813

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015