June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Women in Engineering
11.259.1 - 11.259.19
Attitudes toward Group Work: Gendered Differences?
Teamwork has been proposed as a “female-friendly” pedagogy because it emphasizes cooperation and equality over competition and hierarchy. However, sometimes teamwork serves to reinforce a gendered hierarchy, depending on the actual experience of the teamwork for each gender. Since the new guidelines for engineering curricula emphasize teambuilding skills, the effects of this emphasis on the experiences of male and female engineering students is important to assess. Much of the expectation about teamwork pedagogy and gender is theoretical rather than empirical. This paper contributes to a more empirical assessment of the relationship. It analyzes the predispositions to group work with which male and female engineering students enter Rowan University and how these attitudes to group work change after their first year in the program. During that year they have all been required to take a core curriculum course, Engineering Clinic. Clinic is required each semester for all engineering students and involves interdisciplinary cooperation around a series of projects often with real-world outcomes. Teambuilding skills are taught and evaluated as part of the curriculum. The research reported in this paper studied the students’ affective responses to the teamwork, their preference for group over individual learning, the effect of gender composition of their clinic teams on women’s attitudes to group work, and the relationship between their attitudes toward group work and their evaluation of other aspects of the engineering program and their intentions to persist in engineering in the future. Data were collected as part of an ongoing survey initiated as a National Science Foundation funded project and continued under the sponsorship of the College of Engineering and the Department of Sociology.
Since 2000, the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology has emphasized as one of its 11 program outcomes in Criteria 3 the importance for engineering students to master “an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams”1 and hence the need to integrate teambuilding skills into the undergraduate engineering curriculum. This need has arisen because of changes in the workplace, which now develops engineers into specializations, and requires collaboration between specialists and with non-engineers for product planning, design, and completion. Cutting edge engineering programs integrate teambuilding skills and experience into their curriculum (see, for example, www.foundationcoalition.org). As Rosser2 notes, there seems to be a match between the needs of engineering education for the 21st century and female preferences for learning when it comes to the importance of teamwork. Team or group work (the two are used interchangeably in this paper) is supposed to be a pedagogy that women prefer, since it involves collaborative rather than competitive learning, interactional negotiations, a peer setting for confidence building and a safer environment for error correction for those unsure of their skills. It also provides the opportunity to learn from each other’s strengths. Presumably, the emphasis on teamwork will thus make engineering education more palatable for female students, and has been recommended as a strategy to make engineering (and other math and science) education more “female-friendly”.3-7
Hartman, H., & Hartman, M. (2006, June), Attitudes To Group Work: Gendered Differences? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1069
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