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Cohering Small Group Communication with Introduction to Engineering and its Impact on Team Dynamics

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering in the First-Year

Tagged Divisions

First-Year Programs and Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Dr. Haolin Zhu earned her BEng in Engineering Mechanics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and her Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University, with a focus on computational solid mechanics. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Zhu joined Arizona State University as a full time Lecturer and became part of the freshman engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. She currently holds the title of Senior Lecturer and is the recipient of the Fulton Outstanding Lecturer Award. She focuses on designing the curriculum and teaching in the freshman engineering program. She is also involved in the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program, the ASU ProMod project, the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, the Engineering Futures program, the Global Freshman Academy, and the ASU Kern Project. Dr. Zhu also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU, including Mechanics of Materials, Mechanical Design, Mechanism Analysis and Design, Finite Element Analysis, etc. She was part of a team that designed a largely team and activity based online Introduction to Engineering course, as well as a team that developed a unique MOOC introduction to engineering course for the Global Freshman Academy. Her Ph.D. research focuses on multi-scale multiphase modeling and numerical analysis of coupled large viscoelastic deformation and fluid transport in swelling porous materials, but she is currently interested in various topics in the field of engineering education, such as innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation; innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset in the engineering curriculum and its impact.

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David Jacob Taylor Arizona State University


Ian Derk

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Mr. Ian Derk is an instructor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and PhD student in communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. He studies digital rhetoric, social networks, and educational technology. He works with hybrid class, project-based learning, and inter/transdisciplinary collaborations as part of various projects at Arizona State University.

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Cohering Small Group Communication with Introduction to Engineering and its Impact on Team Dynamics

This paper will describe the impact of cohering two first year courses, Introduction to Engineering and Small Group Communication on team dynamics in a semester-long design project. One of the important skills for successful engineering students is their ability to work effectively in a team environment. There are many opportunities for students to participate in team-based work in various courses and capstone projects to help them practice teamwork skills. However, in many cases, students are on their own to make their teams work and these team-based activities do not necessarily allow students to develop effective teamwork abilities. At [Institution], two cohorts of first year engineering students took Introduction to Engineering and Small Group Communication together during Fall 2018 semester that have cohered schedule, content, and assignments, around a semester-long project. The Introduction to Engineering course focuses on the engineering design process, opportunity identification, problem definition, design criteria, imagining possible solutions, decision making, descriptive and predictive modeling, project management, technical communication as well as various tools, skills, and technical concepts that are relevant for the project. The Small Group Communication course focuses on developing skills towards working in task-oriented groups; engaging in effective role performance; decreasing communication apprehension in small group settings; problem-solving and decision-making in small group settings; developing conflict management skills; managing and planning tasks; etc.

The impact of this model on team dynamics in the design project is assessed using the CARE model and assessment tool developed by the Individual and Team Performance Lab at University of Calgary [1-2]. This assessment tool contains 81 Likert Scale questions about Team Dynamics covering the following areas: strategy formulation & planning; role clarity; cooperative conflict management; team monitoring & backup; goal progression; coordination; contribution equity; healthy, fact-driven conflict; lack of personal conflict; trust; constructive controversy; exploitative learning; exploratory learning. The control group involves students enrolled in four sections of the traditional Introduction to Engineering course during the same semester. This assessment tool was given to both groups once during the middle of the semester and once at the end of the semester. Quantitative results from both groups will be compared and discussed. Participants from both groups are also recruited for an observation of how they work as a team during one 3-hr project work session. Insights from the observation will also be shared.


[1] Larson, N. L., Hoffart, G., O’Neill, T. A., Rosehart, W., Brennan, R., & Eggermont, M. (2015, June). Team CARE model: Assessing team dynamics in first-year engineering student teams. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Seattle, WA.


Zhu, H., & Taylor, D. J., & Derk, I. (2019, June), Cohering Small Group Communication with Introduction to Engineering and its Impact on Team Dynamics Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32515

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