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Building Student Capacity for High Performance Teamwork

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Best of DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.260.1 - 23.260.26



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Paper Authors


Denny C. Davis Washington State University

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Dr. Davis is Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Washington State University. For two decades he taught capstone design courses with multidisciplinary teams and developed instructional materials and assessments that enhance student team success. He is a Fellow of ASEE and an active consultant on engineering design education.

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Ronald R Ulseth P. E. Iron Range Engineering

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Ron Ulseth directs and instructs in the Iron Range Engineering program in Virginia, Minnesota and he teaches in the Itasca Community College engineering program in Grand Rapids, MN. He was instrumental in growing the Itasca program from 10 students in 1992 to 160 students in 2010. In 2009, he worked with a national development team of engineering educators to develop the 100% PBL curriculum used in the Iron Range model. He has successfully acquired and managed over $10 million in educational grants including as PI on 7 grants from NSF. He has been in the classroom, teaching more than 20 credits per year to engineering students for more than 20 years. His specific areas of expertise are in active learning, faculty development, and learning community development. He has been awarded the 2012 Progress Minnesota award, 2012 Labovitz Entrepreneurialism award, and 2012 Innovator of the Year award from the Rural Community College Alliance all for his work in developing the Iron Range Engineering program. His degrees are in civil engineering (B.S., University of North Dakota), and mechanical engineering (M.S., University of Central Florida). He is licensed as a professional engineer in the state of Minnesota

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Building Student Capacity for High Performance TeamworkIt is generally known that effective teams can produce outcomes that exceed those of individuals.However, engineering graduates typically receive little instruction on how to develop a team into a stateof high performance. Consequently, student teams do not perform to the level they should, and graduatesare ill-prepared for the work environment in which they often must develop productive cross-functionalteams. This paper presents a research-based plan for identifying and teaching teamwork knowledge andskills essential for high performance teams.A conceptual framework for teamwork (see figure) shows elements of teamwork and their relationships inmaking high performance teams. Importantly, teams must maintain dual focuses to achieve as outputsboth team development and project completion. Inputs to teamwork include both contributions made byindividual members and those made collectively inexecution of team processes. Teams must controlthese inputs by establishing member roles andresponsibilities, contractual obligations tostakeholders, and project schedules. Productiveteams will demonstrate progress in (a) developingsupportive team relationships, (b) enabling workdone jointly by members, (c) coordinating workdone by individual members, and (d) managinginformation used by the team. The final outputs ofeffective teams will be exceptional teamdevelopment and impressive project completion.Engineering faculty and project mentors are challenged to develop students’ capacity for performing aseffective teams. To achieve these outcomes, faculty, mentors, and students need clear definition ofteamwork performances – both individual member contributions and team process performances.Students and their project mentors also must be motivated to achieve these performances. This paperdefines expected individual and team performances for building team relationships, working together,working individually, and managing team information. Motivation and achievement are enhanced whenmentors and students review and revise these targeted performances to which they will be heldaccountable.This paper also presents a rationale for distributing instruction across the curriculum and promotes thecognitive apprenticeship method of instruction for building team skills consistently in engineeringstudents. This paper will provide engineering faculty and project mentors the knowledge and resourcesfrom which to develop the capacity in engineering students to become high performance teams.

Davis, D. C., & Ulseth, R. R. (2013, June), Building Student Capacity for High Performance Teamwork Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19274

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