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Classifying Dissatisfaction: Student Perspectives on Teammate Performance

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Student Teams, Groups, and Collaborations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Emily Miller Ohio State University

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Emily Miller is a recent graduate of the Industrial Systems Engineering program at Ohio State University. She has worked for the National Integrated Cyber Education and Research Center, as a teaching assistant for the Fundamentals of Engineering program at Ohio State, and as a researcher at Olin College of Engineering and Ohio State. She will begin her graduate studies in Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia this fall.

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Laura Hirshfield University of Michigan

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Laura Hirshfield is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer 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 by completing a post-doctoral appointment at Oregon State University investigating technology-aided conceptual learning. She is currently doing research on self-efficacy in project-based learning.

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Debbie Chachra Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Debbie Chachra is an Associate Professor of Materials Science at the Franklin W. Olin college of Engineering. Her education-related research interests include self-efficacy, design, intrinsic motivation, and gender. She speaks and consults on curricular design, student-centered learning, and gender and technology.

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Classifying Dissatisfaction: Student Perspectives on Teammate Performance

This research paper aims to shed light on the behavior and motivations of students who fail to effectively contribute to group success on engineering student project teams. Though it is common for educators to require (or at least expect) students to participate equally on team projects, students may contribute differently in terms of both degree and in the way in which they participate. Accordingly, student perceptions of acceptable or negative teaming behaviors by peers may differ from faculty expectations.

In this study, we investigated the experiences of students in engineering project courses at a large public university. The data used for this analysis was a subset of that collected for a larger project on task choice and self-efficacy, which used a mixed-methods concurrent triangulation approach. Semi-structured interviews at the end of each course were used to probe the teaming experience of participants. This included, for example, asking interviewees to describe their team members and what roles each played, or to describe an occasion where the team faced a challenge. The interviews were analyzed to investigate the ways in which students spoke negatively about their teammates. Negative comments in response to interview questions were identified, excerpted from the full interviews, and subjected to qualitative analysis.

Eleven categories of negative behavior emerged from the responses from interviewees. A taxonomy of the ways in which students express their dissatisfaction with teammate performance was developed. Rooted in self-determination theory, which is concerned with the level to which individuals are self-motivated, these categories formed a continuum. It ranged from total inactivity (“checking out”) to active engagement in the project in a way that had negative effects on others (for example, redoing the work of teammates). Students on the disengaged and inactive side of the spectrum can be characterized by amotivation. On the other end of the continuum, students actively inhibiting the project’s progression may be displaying external motivation, which is often associated with mistrust of others and a fear of failure. This type of negative behavior, characterized by being deeply engaged but in a way that negatively affects teammates, is not captured well by conventional peer assessments that focus on the affirmative development of teaming skills. A better understanding of negative behavioral components and of negative team experiences, particularly using a framework focused on motivation, may allow for improved design of team-based project experiences and improved mentoring of project teams.

Miller, E., & Hirshfield, L., & Chachra, D. (2016, June), Classifying Dissatisfaction: Student Perspectives on Teammate Performance Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26499

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