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Assessing the Culture of Engineering Student Project Teams

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Design Teams 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Laura J. Hirshfield University of Michigan

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Laura Hirshfield is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Michigan. She received her B.S. from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. from Purdue University, both in chemical engineering. She then transitioned into the engineering education field with postdoctoral positions at Oregon State University, Olin College of Engineering and University of Michigan. Her research interests lie in assessing and amending curricula to help students transition from undergraduate to professional practice.

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James A. Coller University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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James Coller is an engineering PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan focusing on the development of a novel multi-layer network approach to understanding design complexity in unmanned maritime vehicles. James also completed his BSE and MSE in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 2017 and 2018 respectively and a MS in Robotics in 2019 at Michigan. He spent three years during his undergraduate education as an Instructional Assistant for a first year design-build-test-communicate engineering course. His research interests include autonomous robotics for both land and marine environments, ship design for the U.S. Navy, and improving equity and inclusion in engineering learning environments.

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Emily A. Madden University of Michigan


Robin Fowler University of Michigan

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Robin Fowler is a Lecturer in Technical Communication and an Assistant Research Scientist in Engineering Education at the University of Michigan. She loves serving as a "coach" to engineering students as they engage in communicating their ideas to a range of stakeholders. She studies teamwork and team-based pedagogy, with a focus on inter-team communication and equity. She is one of the Faculty Innovators behind Tandem, a Center of Academic Innovation tool for supporting students working in teams.

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Engineering student project teams are common across engineering schools world-wide. These teams provide leadership opportunities for students as well as hands on learning that can be missing from the classroom. The teams provide an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience during their engineering education. These teams can have a large influence on student success post-graduation. Students who excel on project teams are able to network with industry professionals at competition events, during sponsorship activities, and while seeking mentorship and guidance. These contacts are often key for finding high impact careers after graduation. The culture on student project teams can vary widely. While some teams intentionally focus on being welcoming and inclusive of all students, others can be highly selective, sexist, and exclusive. We have created a survey to better understand how cultures differ across teams and within multi-team makerspaces, as well as how those cultures are related to team-level and student-level outcomes. In this paper, the authors discuss their development of a culture survey of student project teams at a large research institution. The goal of the survey is to examine the team culture of the approximately 25 student project teams at our institution and identify opportunities to increase equity and inclusion on teams. Student members of project teams (N=7) provided feedback on the pilot via a focus group, resulting in modifications to pilot items as well as the suggestion of additional items. The paper will describe the focus group feedback as well as present our resulting survey.

Hirshfield, L. J., & Coller, J. A., & Madden, E. A., & Fowler, R. (2020, June), Assessing the Culture of Engineering Student Project Teams Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34180

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